I was talking with a client recently who makes me smile when I recognize similarities that are both a blessing and a curse to poets: I’m talking about perfectionism and the obsessive nature that usually is a side-effect of perfectionism.
It’s really hard to “let go” of a poem for such a person. We are constantly changing words, lines, meaning (why?). It gets time-consuming for better or for worse. Sometimes it’s an improvement to us but not to our spouse or “second opinion”; other times it’s entirely destructive to the poem itself as we pick it apart without mercy for the process that shaped it in the first place until it’s foreign to its source.
At some point, five or ten years up the timeline as we evolve as poets and humans, our poems can make us cringe—either because of the subject (a negative or embarrassing wayward focus) or because we’ve realized a different “signature” and no longer sign our thoughts in formal blocks or whatever be the case.
Obsessing over our own poems causes us to throw out stacks of papers or documents at a whim and then regret it later. It makes us wonder how we can release our words at all, and more severely, it can make us wonder why we write and why we don’t do something else with our time.
Poems are like children. We create them. We love them in the moment, and then it’s best if we can let go of them and accept that they were perfect in their shining moment within the satisfied self, and in that, hopefully at least one other person can appreciate our poetry. That should make it worth the time spent fussing toward perfection of sound, structure, and meaning.
“Everything has a way of landing perfectly into place, like a leaf that lands exactly where the wind pulls it,” a wise poet once told me.