Author: Monna McDiarmid

My blogs: http://monnamcdiarmid.com/

On Starting and Stopping. {The End of Poetry}

Hiroo

On Tuesday 4th of August I stopped writing poetry.

It wants to be dramatic like that, doesn’t it?

In the middle of February 2015, I started a daily poetry project quite by accident. I had been writing poems almost every day, they came without effort or planning, and I began to wonder what it would be like to write a poem every day. Not just every day, but every day for year. “Why not?,” I thought. I had lots of ideas and lots to say. By writing every day, my writing would improve. And I love the form that poetry takes… the rhythmic pops and weaves, the hard kernels at the bottom of the paper bag of meaning, the small sparkling somethings from a regular day in a regular life in Yokohama, Japan or New York City or Ottawa, Canada. And so I began, poem by poem, to map out my world and the people and emotions I encountered there.

And it was good.

I shared these poems on my blog and on my Facebook page and people let me know, with their words, which poems they loved and, with their silence, which ones hadn’t worked so well for them. But I was not put off by the silence. Every poem found its readership even if that was just one. One Damien or Spike or Jessie or Aynne or Ashley or even myself. The world of a poem is not greedy. It does not demand more space than you can afford. It can be as small as one idea jotted on a Starbucks napkin and folded into small squares in your pocket. A marble of a poem. A one yen coin.

And even though I traveled, this summer, to Bangkok and then to New York and then to Ottawa and then to a cottage I had rented with my family, and even though I experienced a passport mishap (entirely my fault) and the subsequent high velocity issuing of a temporary passport, the poems still came, more or less every day, without stress or worry.

This was also a summer in which I’d decided to take a break from social media. Primarily Facebook and Twitter although, in truth, I have never understood how Twitter works. I feel like Twitter is social media’s great black hole and everything I put there just disappears. So taking a break from Twitter was no great loss but being away from Facebook took a lot of discipline on my part. And then not so much.

And I got to the part of my summer when I was surrounded by other writers, many of them truly lovely people (like kindred-spirit-lovely), and they were sharing their words and images freely, madly and something in me just shut off. Two somethings, actually. The creative something in me that writes the poems and takes the photos, and the courageous something in me that doesn’t overthink the sharing. That one that just jumps. She’s a sparkly bit, that one.

When you write a poem every single weekday, you get to a point where you are just going to tell the truth. Whatever the truth happens to be. This is both uncomfortable and inconvenient. Not nice. It felt not nice to have these true and distinctly unlovely things to be working through and to be faced with the task of producing a poem from those thoughts every day.

There are people who write about the darkness. Stephen King, God bless him. Stieg Larsson. People who have purchased their Writing Palace in a dark realm. That’s not the neighbourhood for me. I’m a real estate agent for the light ~ committed to helping people find the light and then live there.

So I stopped writing poems every day. I did feel a bit guilty at first. I considered writing eight more so that I could claim I had written six months’ worth of daily poems. (We’re such fragile, vain creatures, aren’t we?) But I did not write eight more. I began writing notes on scraps of paper and in my fuchsia pink moleskin and on my phone… notes about what I saw and felt and how all of those things fit together or do not.

With each poem-less day, I thought more about my novel The 37 Impossible Loves of Naoko Nishizawa. Six months ago I completed a shitty first draft. Two months ago, a friend gave me brilliant notes for some next steps. Now, in the absence of daily poems, I am working my way back to that world, to writing a second draft and then a third and as many as it takes to put that story into your hands.

And that makes me really, really happy.

This morning, in Tokyo, I started typing a poem into my phone. It’s about an old woman and a much younger man sitting on a bench in the rain and the art of sitting still and how beauty is God in the world. This is the poem I want to write.

Maybe I’ll share it.

What would you like to start if you could?

What would you like to stop?
 

What are the stories

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What are the stories real and imagined
told by you, those who love you and also
by complete strangers, the stories that are
holding you back from living your fullest,
truest life, from becoming the person
you know you can be?

What’s the story that would set you free?
 

Spider Powers

spider

Blow-drying my hair,
I accidentally blew
this spider
inches off course.
He carried
a bundle of dust
or other important
spider cargo
but the wind
stopped his journey.

I feared
I had killed him.

I’m so sorry,
little spider.

I waited.

I reached out
one finger.
The closer
it got to him,
the larger
it seemed.
Gently
I touched him.

He scurried up
the wall,
skated on
thread-legs
all the way
to the ceiling.

I have become
a person
who cannot
kill a spider.
 

Fly Anyway

plane

The man in the black Guns N’Roses shirt
and ball cap in the seat across the aisle
does not enjoy flying. He does not chat
with his partner seated near the window
or leaf through the inflight magazine. He
does not use the entertainment system.
He glances at his watch and breathes deeply.
He sits straight and stares ahead at nothing
in particular. When even that is
too much, he plays a game on his smartphone.

Solitaire.

We’re ninety minutes into a two and
a half hour flight. He tucks his phone away
in the blue leather pocket of the seat
in front of him and stares ahead again.

I want to say, “You’re doing great.” I want
to say, “I know just how you feel.” I don’t.
I suspect the only thing that’s worse than
being a forty year old man afraid
of flying is to have a stranger call
attention to it. So he sits and he
stares straight ahead. I send him empathy
and encouragement like silent little
love bombs.

And I take out my pink moleskin and write
this poem for all the courageous ones
who are afraid to fly but fly anyway.