There was a woman in my past who was quite possibly the world’s worst poet. Actually, she had an incredible future in the greeting card creation department, but as far as the rest of the poetry circles went, I was afraid she would get her feeling hurt. It’s not that she didn’t have talent, because she did, and it wasn’t that she didn’t put her heart and soul into her poems, because she definitely did that too. But she had such an extremely limited vocabulary it was difficult for her to find new words, and it was hard for her to use different phrases to express the same emotions as she had in previous lines. I so wanted to take her to a poetry reading but could never find one anywhere near where she lived and she was not one to travel.
How bad was it? Most of the poems she wrote could be sent via text message.
I tried to get her to open up to new words, new ways of expressing her creativity, and I sent her poems by different poets that I really liked, and she pretty much shot them all down as “too weird”. Okay, poetry has never been my strong suit. I like the stream of consciousness thing too much for many people’s liking, but that’s what I like. Yes, in point of fact I do see that as heading down the tracks of hypocrisy, to defend what I like as what I like while trying to get someone else to try something new.
The Couplet Creator also got as lot of encouragement from me to continue to do her work the way she did her work, and to do it the way that made her most happy. She had enough quirks to be one of those mad genius types; she only wrote in pencil, never used a computer, wouldn’t let anyone read anything she had written until she was done, destroyed all copies of anything she didn’t like, wrote in one notebook only, and never wrote more than one poem on one page, no matter how short it was. This was how she did her work. This was what did it for her. This is how she expressed who she was, and I was to find out later that she at one point in time wrote poems in the bathroom, and flushed them as soon as she was finished with them, to keep her husband from finding them. No one knew she wrote poetry, and had written it for decades. As soon as she discovered I was a writer, she told me, showed me a poem or two, and began keeping them.
One day we sat down and went through a book of poems by Emily Dickinson and my friend really liked some of them. She liked me reading poems to her, and she liked the idea that I would, even though poetry isn’t my strong suit.
I hide myself within my flower,
That wearing on your breast,
You, unsuspecting, wear me too—
And angels know the rest.
I hide myself within my flower,
That, fading from your vase,
You, unsuspecting, feel for me
Almost a loneliness.
She liked that one muchly. It’s a simple poem that really reaches out, and I told her that I thought she was very much like this. I got accused of trying to seduce her for saying that, and much of the problem was just so; she believed any compliments had an ulterior motive.
I urge her to keep her poems in a safe place, and read them to herself after a few days, and try to imagine rewording a piece here or a part there, and reworking the piece to see if it sounded or felt different. She did like that idea, and one night she called me very late and read a poem she had written three or four times, and felt at least two of the versions might be what she was trying to say. The first version of the poem, and I swear I can almost see the words, but they just escape me, spoke of love longing to be free, and the second spoke of love longing to be freed. One was someone who was in love with someone, but they did not know it, and the second was someone in love with the wrong person, but with the substitution of a couple of words, the meaning changed. The woman babbled about what she was feeling when she wrote it, and how she had taken her notebook out to her car and sat down and rewrote the thing by the illumination of a security light to get away from her house, just to change the settings in her mind, and she was totally and completely lost in her creativity to the point I think she forgot I was on the phone with her. It was a turning point in her life. It was the day she threw herself over the cliff without any regard as to whether she would fall or fly. She had arrived at being a poet, with all that it means to do so, and it was a beautiful moment.
She stopped caring if someone saw her writing. She stopped caring if someone asked. She didn’t let anyone read her poems but she stopped destroying them, and started sending them to me via email by the version.
99.9% of her poems were still wretched.
The Muse I serve doesn’t require that other people like what I write. She doesn’t require that I be loved, or have an audience. She doesn’t care if I am never published or if I write a novel that is never read. The point of creativity is to create, not to create for someone else, but to let the inner workings of the mind expand past the known, and the seen, to reveal what is not known, and not seen.
It doesn’t have to be good it only has to be done well. And in that, she and I, both of us, have found peace. She remarried a while back, and the new husband didn’t like me. The day I saw her for the last time I made her swear she would never stop, and without hesitation, she told me she would not, even if it killed her.