Taking some notes and thoughts from the accomplished writer, Edward Hirsch, I now ask the question: Are we born to write? I also would ask, are we born to write poetry? How do we know poetry is what we want?
I bet that when most of us were growing up we didn’t give much thought to a future writing career. I know I certainly didn’t. I was too busy riding my bicycle, hanging out with friends, reading comic books, and mostly being a kid. Some of my friends kept diaries and sometimes they would share little rhyming poems they penned. Most of these were little ditties about pretend boyfriends and pets.
At some point, we became writers. Many found it early in life, and many, like me, found writing much later. That’s not so unique. Frank McCord didn’t write his inaugural novel Angela’s Ashes until he was sixty-nine. Does that mean we have to wait until we are well passed middle-age before we can write? For some of us, the right side of the brain did not kick in until later in life. For others, it may mean that we were so busy either doing other types of art or we were simply busy with life. John Lennon once said something like: “Life happens while you are making other plans.” I had an artist friend, who in her late 80s published her first book of poetry. It was a tour de force. Extraordinary effort.
This brings me up to a characteristic that is essential to the education. Ambition. A strong desire to achieve something. We must want to write poetry as much as anything else. Why is this so important? Because it is the “driver” of this car we call poetry (See an earlier column titled When We Wrap Works Up & Move On). We look for the impetus that gets us up and then gets it done. Ambition will keep us wanting not to fail. And remember, failure is in your perception. No one is judging you or your poetry output. Your writing is not under any intense scrutiny. Your ambition is yours and yours alone. You give yourself permission to define your desire and how much education you want to put into your writing. I love to read poetry, poetry criticism, and pretty much anything that involves poetry.
My personal education is ongoing but that’s how I am. You may have a totally different approach and that is great.
Poetry is individual and so is the education of a poet. A last thought: Keep writing!
Until next time…
Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, and Poetica. She is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).