The Deaf Leading The Unborn

I’ve always felt that poems need to be ferberized.

For me, writing is like traveling to multiple dimensions and accidentally coming back very pregnant. When the writing feeling happens, the interstellar me is whisked off to another universe. This wispy version of myself spends the rest of the poem tucking the geography (and iconography) of the place into her pockets so that I can transcribe them through my mostly inert real body. When these two parts of me are rejoined, I’m startled by the big pile of newness that we created. I’m almost always unable to keep writing, and whatever words were born when we got back together just need to take a nap, as far as I can tell.

Sometimes, these poems nap for years. More often, it takes 3-6 months. I check on them every once in awhile to see if they are still breathing, then silently close the nursery drawer.  They have to be able to soothe themselves. If I bring a poem out after 6 months of silence and it is just screaming for attention, I put it away again.

So when Kate misheard my suggestion that we read another person’s poem every night at Soapstone as something like “Let’s read our new poems every night” I was so mortified that I agreed and just ate another oyster. Kate and I are both hard of hearing, which means our time together in poetry group and at this residency is commonly punctuated with “What?” and “Can you say that again?” After years of smiling and nodding through unheard conversations or deftly changing the subject after the third time I’ve asked someone to speak up and I still have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, I’m prone to giving my hearing impaired friends license to re-interpret my words. Some of the best things I’ve ever heard were just the hallucinations of my damaged and dreamy ears. When considering my need to let poems rest for large amounts of time before they are allowed to see the light of day, I do get annoyed at my fussy self. What is all this nonsense about alternate universes and treating poems like breathing creatures that need to form their independence?

Not all of my talents are invested in being a total weirdo, however – I am also remarkably good at procrastinating, and inversely, at being rash. A few days ago, Kate asked if I wanted to email her a few poems so that she could print them out.  So that we could workshop them.  Days after they were written.  I made some sort of semi-plausible excuse about needing to look them over, because they really weren’t poems yet. A couple of days ago, when we were in the freezing cold café with the virgins and jazz music, I looked over one of her poems, but whoops! none of mine were printed. The night before last, I managed to get really involved in an abstract embroidery project I am working on, and we missed our window for the planned workshop. Then, yesterday morning, without having tried to make them into actual poems, I gave up. I woke a few of them up, and escorted them through the printing process.

They did look a little dazed, and one of them seemed to be fighting constipation.  I took them to the table, handed them over to Kate, and waited for the impending tantrums.

And nothing bad happened. In fact, only good things happened. The poems seemed remarkably soothed by the process. One of them came together and is finished.

I don’t know if this early showing of poems will be a practical practice when I get back to the city – perhaps it works better here in the woods. But I am pretty pleased.

And sometimes, I really love being wrong.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

8 Responses to “The Deaf Leading The Unborn”

  1. David writes:

    I love the description of your writing process. But why “accidentally” coming back pregnant? Don’t you wanna have these word babies? (The next time your mom bugs you about having children, say, “But I’m having babies all the time! They’re just not human.” )

    I suppose these inter-dimensional cross-breeds might be of many sorts. Some are like horses that fall out of the womb already being able to stand up. Others are like the tree farms that take 50 years from planting to cutting. (I’m thinking of those Weyerhaeuser signs you see around the Olympic Peninsula that say “Planted in 1920!”) Some of your babies may be tree creatures. You never know. Whatever, they’re beautiful.

    If all art-making is baby delivering, then when people ask why our apartment is so messy, I’ll just say: “Afterbirth.”

    Re “Putting Baby to Bed”: My mom kept me in a drawer, but I think it was taken out of the dresser and sitting on the floor. Was that wrong?

  2. Jennifer Borges Foster writes:

    You trying giving birth to a horse or a tree from another universe – it ALWAYS feels like an accident. Branches, Man, Branches.

    I think I did catch you giving birth to a mongoose/snail creature once when you were up late working, but that might have been a dream.

    Also: it’s not cool to call our apartment “messy” anyway. She’s alternatively cleansed.

    Also again: if your Mom did not shove your body crosswise between the edge of the drawer and the frame of the dresser, I think there was nothing wrong with it. I’ve met her. She’s the best. I’m guessing she never shoved you into anything.

  3. Elizabeth writes:

    That second picture is amazing. I’ve been trying to imagine captions.

    I am also (happily) a bit hard of hearing. Also, I read things wrong. I like life a little muted, where I get to fill in the rest myself.

  4. Jennifer Borges Foster writes:

    I’m sure that is part of what makes you a great poet – the rewriting of a muted world. It is nice to know that you are a part of our hearing impaired poets club – we should all do a reading sometime, and take questions from the audience that we can reinterpret however we like!

  5. David writes:

    speaking of misreads: At first I thought that the title of this post was “The Deaf Leading The Unicorn”

  6. David writes:

    Whoa! I only just now caught the last line of that blog post. Can I frame that and put it on our refrigerator?

  7. Jennifer Borges Foster writes:

    Ho hah. I’m back to loving being right again, so no dice, mister.

  8. Collen Mortin writes:

    Hey there! Appreciation for the good blog post. Keep writing! ;)

Leave a Reply