All magpie, no focus
I haven’t posted since April 2020. I haven’t had it in me. Between then and now I’ve maybe written a handful of new poem drafts, picked up a few hobbies and a few pounds, and spent my share of sleepless nights worrying about what new crisis I, my students, or the world will face tomorrow. I’ve also, thanks to all the time at home rattling around in my house and my mind, done some self care and mental health work that’s been a long time coming. I’m not sure yet how much of all that I’ll process in the space of my poems or in other ways, but I can tell my voice is changing, my perspective is shifting.
During the second semester of my MFA—a little over ten years ago—I was undergoing a similar shift. I felt my mind searching out in all directions. It felt almost impossible to pick a single trajectory and follow it. I was all magpie and no focus. I needed a compass. So I set myself a regular project. I would write manifesto after manifesto, each attempting to get closer and closer to the heart of what writing is for me. There was something electric about it, like I was reinventing myself each time. Suddenly that impulse which had before felt like instability became a deliberate intention to embrace the variousness that so fully filled my mind. I began to see the frenetic pace and branching of my imagination not as an enemy, but as a core component for my creative process. I want to channel that discovery again now. Though I long for steadiness, I’m coming back to the knowledge that my inability to settle leads me toward the poems that feel the most revelatory.
So I’m setting myself this project again. For as long as it feels fruitful, I will write manifesto after manifesto. The goal will be to reclaim my poetic practice after this strange year and a half plus that’s left so many of us untethered. I’ll take as inspiration The Manifesto Project from The University of Akron Press, and my poetry students who write their own manifestos every year. My manifestos might be long, short, quirky, cerebral, desperate, brash, entirely too hopeful, angry, confused, overly self-referential, or filled with unwieldy sentences. I don’t know. I’m okay not knowing. Because you can’t have a discovery if your map is already charted. I can’t bring a map. I have to make the map. I have to walk out to the edges of the world I know, stomping beaches and tracking birds. I have to go back again into the wilderness of my self and hope she won’t swallow me whole. I’ve got a head lamp. Let’s see where we’re headed.