It’s very difficult to judge what we love, and our own writing is no exception. It’s why we who write need to pull away from our words for weeks, maybe months, minimally, to detach from them. We need to give ourselves time to forget what we wrote.
How often do we notice that our new favorite poems are consistently our most recent poems? But as we look back, a few “perennials” stand out from the rest. Those are the true keepers. We need to pull away long enough to recognize the perennials as those that spring back to life with every read. As for the rest, we need to be able to laugh at ourselves once in a while, and keep them (if we must take clingy hoarding to an ephemeral level) in documents with titles such as “Analects 1,” “Analects 2” and “Analects 3” – and do your best, then, to not look back unless you’re feeling nostalgic or all dried up.
In earlier 2018, I published a small collection of poems written within the previous autumn and winter. Originally it was to be a year’s worth of poems, but I thought, what if I were to die soon, before I would complete spring and summer? My husband and I have a practice of living for today, not looking ahead much, considering that this day might be all we have. So I decided to break the year into two books, to publish the first half now, if not sooner.
What happened, then, was that the second book became an assignment, and I grew disappointed in myself for not slowing down, for not giving it time to sit – not in my hands, re-reading and re-reading without giving the word-attachments time to detach.
I write these words today simply to remind people of the importance of slowing down: patience and trust. When we are enthusiastic, we get impatient, and when our words are brand new, we are enthusiastic about them. We only need to trust in the future, to trust that we will most likely still be here tomorrow and the next day, and to trust someone else with our babies, our documents of fading annuals and resilient perennials, just in case.