If you think this blog is nauseatingly self-referential, you’d be right. Nearly self-reverential. A shameless mind selfie!
What are we humans to do with all this feeling, all these emotions that we keep to ourselves, or share with the special few who have signed on with us for the long haul? “Too full of self” does not work in poetry. Nor does any emotion, served thick and visible to the naked eye. I’m willing to bet most of us are awash in emotion, what with one darn thing or another. And not always the noblest kind.
Beyond the embargo on emotional excess, poems about life, death, love, faith, motherhood are nearly verboten in an ironic culture. Yet these are the poems I want to read and write, the subjects nearest and dearest to my heart. Those last few words would be tracked cliché! by any decent editor. I once had an editor tell me, “You can’t write that unless you’re Rumi.” I get the point, that what has already been said must be re-envisioned into a new-and-improved version of itself before it has merit, beyond personal satisfaction. Original: good. Sentimental: bad. Although maybe the pendulum is swinging again. The New Sincerity. All the post-post-ironies.
In the meantime, I’m trying to render personal experiences and feeling/s on the big topics with words as perfectly suited as I can. Sometimes sentimental, sometimes ironic, whatever an individual poem demands and my personal skill set allows. A long way from Wordsworthian “emotion recollected in tranquillity,” but not less satisfying when All We Can Hold: Poems of Motherhood posted my poem, “Coming of Age in Lesbos,” on its site May 9, 2016. An anthology of the same name has just been published by Sage Hill Press. The poems on the website are not included in the anthology, although I was told by the editors that there may be a second volume.
People want to read poems affirming and lamenting the trajectory of generations through time: separation is good, it’s natural, it’s painful. At least I do. What epitomizes this necessary transition better than the coming of age of a daughter? And how nice to step back and contextualize any personal experience in the gorgeous-sounding words of Sappho’s fragment. I fell in love with those words, oi moi, alas! right around the time my own daughters were leaving home. Yet I hope the poem moves the experience through Sappho’s mother’s mind and heart, part of the universal river of mothers and daughters.