Rather frequently, someone asks me if I ever expect to write fiction. My answer: To me, fiction writing is a sort of magic. It is miraculous, this process of creating fully formed human characters from one’s imagination and writing multi-layered, moving, thrilling, tears-and-laughter-inducing stories about them. I can’t begin to imagine how one performs such a miracle.
I feel this way about poetry too. When someone says, “I am a poet,” I want to sit them down so they can tell me what that means. How does one become a poet? How does one be a poet?
Nonfiction is my thing. Making nonfiction as appealing to read as fiction is my thing. I write nonfiction in my head for a good portion of every day, and on this computer monitor as often as I can. It is not always easy (in fact, it is rarely easy). But it is home. Fiction and poetry are places I might like to visit some day. But I cannot imagine them becoming my home.
So I was surprised to find myself last Friday, at the Festival of Faith and Writing, attending workshop after workshop not about the craft of nonfiction writing, about platform or blogging or self-promotion—all topics that have great relevance at this time in my writing career—but about fiction and poetry.
Also at the Festival, I met the lovely Sarah Koops Vanderveen (a fellow Redbud writer), who explained that her response to feeling a bit “stuck” after years of being a mom to her sons was to start a blog on which she would write a poem every day for a year. (You can read Sarah’s year’s worth of poems, and more, on her blog Once by the Pacific, which is also the title of her soon-to-be released book featuring poems and photographs.)
And I began to think, OK, maybe I could try this poetry thing. I’m pretty sure I can’t write really good poetry. I know very little about poetry. I don’t even read all that much poetry. But if I take that intimidating word—poetry—out of the mix, and instead ask myself if I’m capable of writing short collections of carefully selected words, with the goal of expressing something with fewer words, and perhaps more effectively, than I could express it via nonfiction, then I begin to feel that maybe I can do this. Write poems.
So I may do that on occasion here (and probably more often in private)—cobble together a gathering of words that can be loosely referred to as a poem. My poems will not be very good. But for me, that’s not the point. Rather, I’m hoping that in experimenting with a literary form that is uncomfortable and new for me, I might also learn how to string words together more effectively, and beautifully, in my nonfiction work.
Today’s poem is a reflection on my husband’s gallbladder surgery tomorrow, which we hope will put an end to seven years of periodic episodes of debilitating stomach pain:
On Daniel’s Surgery
Out with the gallbladder.
Nothing says more clearly—
This is middle age.