Some 18 or 19 years ago, I took every poem I had written that I could get my hands on and destroyed them. I'd like to say that the act was inspired by the Tibetan monks who create elaborate sand mandalas and then efface them as a comment on impermanence, but I didn't know of that practice at the time. I just wanted to be free from the 'want' of creativity - the need to create and that spirit-breaking sensation that comes over you when you are barren.
It was a rash act, true, but one that made sense in the moment. I've always had an uneasy relationship with my creativity. Too often, particularly as a young child, the ability to read and write (not to mention being left-handed) meant I was singled out as the misfit, the freak, and so on. To quote Suzanne Vega, I was left of center, in the outskirts and the fringes. I was an 'other', on the outside looking in. Was being an observer the reason I began to write? I don't know. Regardless, writing was a comfort, but it also set me apart, and not just because it's a lonely pursuit.
Though I always wrote for myself, I didn't much share it. So material accumulated. I felt burdened by it. So many words and ideas, many borrowed from songwriters, others thick in rhymes, etc. It didn't feel like mine or genuine. Being into music, I had noticed how many talents burned out or faded away, unable to keep up with the demands of fans, critics, the business, themselves. They dashing themselves against the rocks of trying to top previous accomplishments and expectations. Better not to create than to create, it seemed. Given that I wasn't doing anything with the work, not developing it, sharing it, etc., and misgivings over the process of creation, I threw it away.
Until 2007, with few exceptions, all of my writing had been for other people - helping them find their voices, mainly through marketing, corporate and interpretative writing. It's everywhere if you know where to look (*cough* Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia), or the companies I've worked with. What I came to realize that year is that, in helping people give voice to their thoughts, I lost my voice.
I didn't feel any sense of that loss until I joined Facebook. A friend reminded me of a poem I wrote in high school, and asked if I was still writing poems. No, those days are over, I think I said. And yet, I did craft something for her as a lark. And then I continued crafting poems, as if I had only stopped during a long hike for a rest and a snack. Only this time, it felt good. It felt real and genuine. It felt like the poems were mine.
Nearly 20 years between works isn't so much time. Hey, there's a singer/songwriter named Vashti Bunyan who reemerged with a new album after 35 of self-imposed exile from a music industry that she felt had no use for her. In the interim, she lived life, and that life was reflected in the songs of that second album, Lookaftering, which were as striking for how they mirror the old work as for how they diverge based on her experiences. I'm glad I started again. I don't think I could have restarted without a lifetime of experience piling up, or, for that matter, joining Facebook. I had to feel connected, not just to people, but to that side of myself I've spent years denying. Once I felt that connection, it became easy and enjoyable. Even more so because I decided for once to share it - to put the work out there on people's Facebook pages instead of keeping myself to myself. And when people deleted them, and I lost them, I didn't feel attached to them. It was like the mandalas. They are impermanent; it's the feelings they inspire that linger. Besides I can make more or recreate them to the best of my ability.
Nearly two years later, I wonder how long I will continue writing poems. The muses are a fickle lot. They keep their own hours and schedules. But for those of you who have bothered to read this far, I promise I will post any and all inspirations until my well is depleted. It's just part of my ever-renewing efforts to be present and genuine in all I say and do in so far as I can. You can read, share, be the guardians of the words. Once they go up here, they are really no longer mine. They are for you in as much as they can be yours. Critique them if you must, but I'm glad if they inspire or linger with you, and thank you for your kind words. If the muses are kind, more words will follow. Until then, keep your eyes on the horizon...