Monday, July 9, 2018

Why Do I Write?

I found this little essay in one of the piles of papers I am clearing out of my office. It was obviously written soon after my mother's death in 1992.

I am the woman driving erratically down the freeway as she scribbles lines about her mother's death on the backs of checkbook deposit slips. I am the woman dashing into the restroom, ripping down paper towels, and counting iambic pentameter on them with an unsheathed lipstick. And sometimes I stand on a chair in the part-time faculty office, declaiming my latest composition in a loud and resounding voice.

For the past dozen years, I have concentrated on sonnets. I taught the pattern to a literature class once and decided to try it myself, as an alcoholic takes that first drink or a harlot loses her virginity.

I love the contrast of the formal pattern against the intense emotions, a clay-lined basket barely containing its fire. In a sonnet, the form and feeling are in an exciting, escalating competition. It's good sex--and, after all, what worth is a poem if it is not memorable?

I use a personal context for my poems, but strive for a universal meaning. Not for me the idiopathic Plathian psychology, the obscure, gleeful trip to the kitchen to bake my brains with gas. I scream loud and long, in hopes someone will say, "Yes, I hear you, and I know exactly what you mean, and your poem has given me a way to express it."

I write because I am alive, and the dead don't write at all.

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