At the very end of July, I was reading the 4Culture newsletter, looking for the mother of all grants that will solve my financial problems (do they have a credit card debt consolidation grant?). I found this instead.
So now I’m participating in the Poetry Postcard Fest 2008, sending a poem-a-day handwritten on a postcard to consecutive strangers on a list for the entire month of August. I have cheated once, and used one previously-written poem (In my defense, it was on a day that I was suffering from a particularly nasty head cold.) But all the rest, so far, have been written daily, written quickly, and written (mostly) without anxiety.
This is kind of a big step for me, since I haven’t been writing regularly at all since graduating from the MFA program over 2 years ago. Then, pray tell, you ask, what have I been doing? Well, mostly obsessing over the fact that I’m not writing regularly. Dreading those literary social events where I’ll run into people who were in my program, knowing that we’ll all stand around awkwardly with plastic glasses of wine in our hands, asking each other “So…are you writing?” and experiencing a sharp, secret glee when anyone answers, “No, not really.” I’ve been submitting my poems to journals and my manuscript to contests, and garnering many fine rejections. Reading my “free” 1-year subscriptions to journals after entering their publication contests, and seeing name after name after name of poets that I know contained therein. Feeling sheepish and discouraged when my friends use words like “anaphora” and “semiotics”, but I have the tendency to say “awesome” over and over in general conversation. Wondering if I am, maybe, not really a poet after all.
But I have been a poet for ten days’ worth of postcards now, and it feels pretty good. It’s such a relief not to be bound up in the “Am I writing? Am I not-writing?” mental debate, and to be able to give myself permission to write a little poem, a fast poem, a casual poem…even a bad poem! I’ve also been able to practice non-attachment, since I’m writing the poems and then immediately sending them out into the world, where they will belong to someone else.
In the absence of the pressure to be a “serious” poet, writing poems is suddenly fun again. I’m back in the habit of writing every day, even if it’s just for a little while. I’ve been reminded that I actually like to write. And, of course, my young Jedi apprentice, once you stop worrying about writing something good, oftentimes you do write something good. And that’s pretty awesome.
Amy Schrader holds an MFA from the University of Washington. She was a semifinalist for the 2006 and 2007 Discovery/The Nation poetry contests and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin Parachute Postcard Review, Willow Springs, Pontoon, and the Tupelo Press Poetry Project. Amy is a 2008 GAP grant recipient and she lives and works in Seattle.