To clarify, I have written poems before. I have written many poems before actually, most of them for a creative writing class, a few inspired by whatever contemplative muse happened to float through my brain in the moment, and once as a sort of spontaneous challenge from a fellow classmate in high school. I don’t remember what we were supposed to be doing in the moment, but it was public school, so it could have been anything.
This poem started as I was fighting (and losing) another round of: let’s go to sleep now brain we have work in the morning. Apparently that’s how I’m kicking off 2019, which is really a continuation of winter 2018, which is likely stemming from the crippling wave of what-am-I-doing-with-my-life anxiety.
It’s great. New year, new me.
Back to the poem though. At first, my brain was going through it’s usual process of endless cycling by contemplating my financial situation. It’s not always finance, but it is usually math related. I don’t know why, but apparently my semi-conscious, can’t quite sleep brain likes to puzzle numbers.
And then it started to flow into a more abstract space.
New Years Eve, I also had trouble sleeping, but that wakefulness was likely spurred on by 10pm coffee with Megan out of her new french press. As I was making life even harder for myself by surfing Facebook (I know the light doesn’t help), I decided to look up a new year’s poem. I don’t remember why – maybe I thought the quiet precision of a poem would ease my racing head. And it did, actually. I found a new year’s poem, and now I’ve decided, somewhat out of character, to make a new year’s resolution. I’m going to read the daily poem from the Poetry Foundation.
(Spoiler – I’m already not doing great. But it’s okay, I can catch up. The point is, I wanted more poetry in my life, so at least I’m honoring the core of the resolution.)
(Also, if you haven’t heard of the Poetry Foundation, look them up. It’s a lovely organization that seeks to provide poetry of all genres, subjects, and times with a platform to a wide audience. One such tool to further this goal is their Poem of the Day. They also maintain repositories, poet/author bios, prose, and audio files for poems, host exhibits and events, hand out awards, and publish the Poetry magazine. )
I think that moment of inspiration put poetry on the brain, because eventually, I started translating my frazzled nerves into words, spaces, line breaks, alliteration. It was soothing and refreshing to give that restless part of me something to do, something productive that didn’t have to be “productive.” I didn’t stay up washing dishes or anything. I had an outlet, but it was without pressure, without expectation.
But then of course, I started to feel antsy because I thought I was coming up with interesting concepts, and really they would look better on paper. There was a 98.9% chance that I would forget the majority of this mental gymnastics by the time I actually fell asleep and then woke up again.
Instead of doing that, I looked to the night stand. Short of a pen and paper, I grabbed my phone and opened up the note pad app. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted – writing poetry feels wrong on an electronic device, the way writing anything on a computer felt wrong, disconnected, before I started typing all my college essays directly instead of hand writing them first, then transcribing. (I never would have graduated on time had I kept up that habit.)
For poetry though, I want to feel the pen in my fingers, measure the pauses by the slide of paper against the side of my hand.
I didn’t have that. As I’ve established.
I had my phone. And it served me well. I jotted down most of what I’d been thinking, even sketching out the line breaks and spacing.
The next night though was when inspiration and serendipity converged. I found a notebook I’d been given as a journal – no lines, so I’d not really been sure what to do with it until this point. (Without lines, I’m hopeless at writing with any sort of order, but I channel poetry much better when I can work without enforced formatting.) I cleared a space for the book on the nightstand, found a spare pen, and began transcribing the poem from my phone to the book.
My partner asked what I was doing. I told him I was going to keep a night-side journal, a receiver for all the thoughts that kept me awake at night. He asked how I would see what I was writing, and I told him I’d use my phone. If I was using it to illuminate the page, at least it would keep me from staring at the screen and becoming wide-eyed (even if it meant having to hold the thing up while I tried to juggle the book, the pen, and the light without disturbing him.)
He jumped out of bed, and I heard him rummaging in the other room. I figure he’ll fill me in when he returned, so I keep writing. After some shuffling noises, cardboard boxes falling, and strange muttering, he returned holding up a book light.
A book light.
I thought they’d all been consigned to garbage heaps, attics, the backs of closets that no one explored anymore for fear of being consumed. If people are that committed to reading in conditions of limited light, they invested in a kindle.
But he remembered he had one, tucked away, carried around with him all these years. The clip fits perfectly on the journal’s cover without having to clamp onto pages.
And now I have a little writing station, right next to my sleeping spot, with just the right amount of light. Restless nights don’t concern me anymore. I have my salve, a way to exercise, a conduit for the anxious energy. It’s a relief just knowing it’s there.
This is my new year: recognizing challenges and devising attainable solutions. Trying to be patient AND strategic. Seeking sources of inspiration and improvement that won’t overwhelm me. And of course, writing, reading, and appreciating all those around me who support me and my passion.
May the force of the odds be ever in your happy new year.