The Pleasure of Wincing

I’m not entirely sure how By forgoing television, reading, and sleep, I managed to put together an 18 page chapbook submission, including the writing and rewriting of two poems from scratch, in less than two days. The package has been mailed out (and should be postmarked) on the very last day to submit. I have no idea what’s going to happen with the chapbook. It’s off and out of my control at this point.*

The most time consuming aspect of this was the selection of poem (of which I have many). When I read poetry collections, I appreciate when they have a kind of cohesion; they fit together, either thematically or stylistically. But when I look at my own poems, I feel like they don’t fit together well, like they don’t have that cohesion. I can take an individual poem I’ve written and feel rather confident about it, but when I try to pull them together into a collection all my confidence falls apart and it seems like one hot mess. It’s kind of can’t see the forest for the trees kind of thing, I guess. I can’t see the whole for the individual poems. It was like I lost all ability to assess my own work, but I struggled through it.

Part of the compilation process involved searching through old binders to find poems not in digital format. It was a wonder to see stuff I’d written in 1999 and earlier. I was so much younger then.

In his poem “Scotch Tape Body,” Ron Padget has a really great way of looking at old work and the kind of joyful/painful nostalgia that occurs. He describes looking at old poems he’d written and taped into notebook, and wonders briefly if it would have been better if he had never written the poems at all, but realizes that without those poems, he would be denied, “the pleasure of wincing / then forgiving myself / of catching glimpses of who I was / of who I thought I was.”

All the poems I wrote then got me to where I am now, and the poems I write today will get me to what I write tomorrow. It’s an evolution. So, I guess I shouldn’t kick myself or let myself doubt my current project either; I shouldn’t avoid writing out of fear of failing (which happens sometimes). If I did, I’d be denying myself the pleasure of future wincing when I look back on today.

How do you feel when looking on past projects, art, writing? Got any projects you’ve recently completed that you’re both nervous and excited about?

*I find that to be a powerful thing, to learn what you have control over and what you do not. If you do everything you can in regards to the things you do have control over, you can let go and offer up the things you don’t have control over (like whether an editor will like and accept your poetry submission).

[Cross-posted to my livejournal. You are welcome to comment either here or there.]

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