Confessions of a Procrastinator

I have felt exasperated by my intractable habit of working at certain poems again and again, over long spans of time.
~ Galway Kinnell

It is supposed to rain all day, confining, a time
for inside pursuits. I intend to compose a poem.
The soggy weather could be a catalyst for
breaking my cycle of procrastination. I am intent
on defeating my tendency to put things off.

I’ve come to enjoy poetry in my later years, an avocation
taken up after I retired. But poetry is a challenge,
it doesn’t come easy. I have no innate aptitude
for it. It’s hard work. I strain to draw forth the right
word or phrase. It requires countless iterations
for me to nurture a poem to completion. (But it is
the part of the process I find most energizing.)
My practice is to capture thoughts before they
flutter away. I file them, to be buffed, fashioned, or
discarded at a later date. I have a collection of
finished poems and another of poems-in-the-making.

I have had modest success from time to time,
received a few awards, had poems published.
My offerings are free verse. I don’t write in
traditional fixed forms or use rhyme. I believe
rhyming may lead to unholy alliances among words,
force words into poems that may not be the right
ones, chosen to satisfy a rhyme. I believe it is
theme, a poem’s reason for being, that is
paramount, not its form or rhyme scheme.

My self-designated challenge is to produce
something meaningful, original, recognizable
as bearing my signature. I feel good about myself
when writing, staying faithful to the task. However,
I am not disciplined, often guilty of wasting time
aimlessly when I could be putting words to page.

Poets draw from various sources in composing
a poem — a memory, a clever line or phrase,
a nifty simile or keen metaphor, an experience or
impression, an event, a sociocultural observation.
I have bits and pieces of poems jotted down and
fresh ideas percolating.

I have ample possibilities. I could write about
the black and green-striped caterpillar gorging
its way through the parsley in my wife’s herb garden.
I might try something bygone like the story of
the self-ordained preacher whose whiskey still exploded
on a Sunday morning, burnt down a barn and blasted out
the stained glass windows in the local church.
I may compose something serious. Tell the story of
five-year-old Omran Daqneesh, injured in Aleppo bombings,
whose image seen around the world evoked outrage.

I’ve read Raymond Carver’s short stories, novellas with
elaborately drawn plots featuring dysfunctional protagonists
whose lives seem to frequently teeter on the brink,
episodes that end in suspended resolution. I’ve thought of
doing a poem with such characters, a hard-edged,
life-on-the-fringes poem, in the manner of Carver’s
rough-hewn lucidity. Such rawness appeals to me.

Aging. Now there’s a topic. I have extensive notes
on the subject. I could tinker with a poem on growing old.
There have been many such poems across the ages,
there may be nothing left to say. Esteemed poets, from
Shakespeare to Maya Angelou, have taken on the subject.
Most of the poems are exercises in repetition —
laments on life’s short term, loss of friends and loved ones,
physical and mental decline, a yearning for youth, wasted time,
time left, things undone, what might yet be accomplished.

Donald Hall proclaimed in his poem, Affirmation,
“To grow old is to lose everything.” Dispiriting.
There was Dylan Thomas and his admonition to “rage, rage
against the dying of the light.” A line in Robert Service’s poem,
Growing Old, is more to my liking. “Gosh! I’m growing old,”
an unabashed acceptance of reality, without elaboration.

I will save my notes on growing old, continue to record
thoughts and impressions. But I might leave poems
on the subject to those already written. I’ll choose
another theme.

So, I do have sufficient material for a poem. I’m confident
I will settle on something. If I don’t get to it today
I’ll set aside time tomorrow, rain or shine.

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Procrastinating when attempting to write poetry.