Simple Poems for Frustrated Writers
“It’s no easy business being simple,” writes Gustave Flaubert. He is referring to the kind of writing he wants to do for what will eventually be Madame Bovary. I learned about him and his perspective on writing in a book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. I found the book (or did the book found me?) in Literati, a local bookstore where, once upon another time I read from my first book to a lively and friendly crowd. In fact, I found Daily Rituals just a few feet away from where I stood that August night. The facts surrounding this meetup seemed like an invitation to open the book and read for a minute.
I read about William Faulkner and Miles Davis and Jane Austen too, and what I found strangely encouraging is that nobody in the book knows how to go about the business of chasing, following, wrestling, and dancing with the beast that is creativity, but they all tried anyway.
It is simple, really. It is never easy.
I carried Mr. Flaubert’s words with me throughout a particularly hot and busy day last week. They kept me company while I attempted to revise a portion of my manuscript I’d set out to revise and ended up staring out the window, watching the sky brighten and listening to the birds chirping, and I was jealous of their ability to rise and to sing. They were with me at work while I analyzed courses at universities and colleges in order to match them to what our school has to offer, so that students who are transferring in don’t have to repeat a course. (The school I work at offers a course on monsters, and so far I’ve not found an equivalent. It’s comforting to me to know that while students are in this institution, there is an opportunity to learn to handle monsters. This seems like a necessary life skill.)
My office does not have air-conditioning, and I don’t mind all that much, mostly because I have my own office, and I’ve never had an office before. But that day it was hot, and it became hard to focus on anything save for the sweat dripping down various parts of my body. One person brought in a fan for me. Another person opened her office door so that her A/C would blow into my office. My boss said, “Let’s go for a walk. I need to show you the rose garden.” And although it was hot, but I’ve never been to a rose garden, and I love that I get to work in a place that literally insists on its employees taking time to smell the roses. Which is what we did that day.
Finally the words were with me when I biked home from a meeting that night. The committee I am on is one where I am wrestling to find my bearings and my voice, and so often I show up insecure and I leave frustrated and overwhelmed. That night I rode home under a sky that was a dusky grey-blue, even at 9:30 at night, and here is something simple that made me happy. I could still see the green on the leaves, and I could still see cracks on the streets. I could see the white of my handlebars and the new red on the tomato plants that were growing in the front lawns of homes where, in a couple of months, college students would live.
“I adore this town,” I thought as I pedaled home.
It was a simple thought, but it kept me company on the uphill ride, to home.
What simple poems can you write from the stuff of your days? Here’s one I wrote that was inspired by my day and by the piece above:
Monsters are everywhere
They point to the tomatoes
growing in the dark.
They peek at me
behind the trees
while I crouch closer
to the roses
because the pedals’
mosaic of color–
jagged and crooked–
like the rose
on my finger
to hold my pen against it,
reminding me that nothing is wrong,
but as long as I write,
will never go away
Browse writing prompts
I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.