Friday, January 15, 2016

A few notes from the playground poet laureate

I wonder how much our poems reflect the places where we write them.

As mentioned in previous posts, I really love a good writing retreat, and I’ve enjoyed wonderful residencies in places like the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a seaside village that has inspired artists and writers for centuries.

Additionally, just last year, I had a terrific experience at Firefly Farms, in the beautiful wooded hills just outside Knoxville, Tennessee. And I’ve also done do-it-yourself retreats in fishing cabins and B&Bs and off-season resorts in some of the most idyllic places I could find.

Of course, much could also be said about the grandeur and elegance of Courtyard by Marriott, located near the Springfield, Missouri, airport, and somewhere between five miles and a dozen solar systems from my house (with its ultra-discreet but extremely lax housekeeping services).

Ah, but the poems, for the most part, don’t happen by the wild gray Atlantic or in a historic Arkansas spa town, or even in an airport hotel. Instead they seem to happen as I’m nursing a Diet Coke while doing time at the McDonald’s PlayPlace. Or they happen at the laundry, or during the interminable wait for my kid to go on stage near the end of the school talent show.

My poems happen while my composition students are doing in-class writing or while I’m waiting in the car line at school. They happen in the morning when I’m the first one up, until an upstairs voice calls, “Mo-o-o-o-om!”

Sometimes I’m sort of like a modern maternal version of William Wordsworth, trying to hold the poem in mind until I can get home and scrawl down my version of “Tintern Abbey.” I tend to lose the thing in transit, though; the person who can’t remember why she walked into the kitchen is not the one who’s going to recall a few dozen lines of poetry with any degree of accuracy.

If book titles reflected the typical writing life of a working parent, I’m guessing they’d be very different. The Worshipful Company of Room Mothers. The Kingdom of Ordinary Grime. Or maybe Pity the Kiddy Pool Its Forced Embrace of Two Perfectly Round Turds I Deny Any Knowledge Of and Do Not, In Fact, Even See.

Luckily, I’m pretty sure the room where poetry happens is an interior one, accessible only to the writer. That’s not to say that sounds don’t penetrate its windows and words don’t line up to wait their turn.

While we’re on the topic, what rhymes with “booger”?

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