Monday, February 1, 2016

The Seasonal Chapbooks, Part 1

The fall of 2013 was a blur for me. The biggest reason, of course, was that we moved from Portland back to Denver at the end of August. Furthermore, I got back to Denver on a Sunday night and I went right back to work at Marlowe's on Monday.

Marlowe's, at least for me, was an enigma. I worked at Marlowe's for years, 2006 to 2010. I worked my last shift in 2010 at the end of October and left for Portland the next day, so it was only fitting that I should get back to it the day after our return. It was like the whole Portland experience, nearly 3 years was but a vacation, a holiday away from a regular, squalid work-a-day life. In many ways it was.

We moved into Glendale on Denver's east side shortly after arriving. It was a 4.5 mile bike ride from Glendale to Marlowe's which I did daily. The bike ride between downtown and Glendale was very nostalgic for me. I had made that same ride in 1993-1997 between work and school. Riding the bike was a good thing for me at the time, as it gave me at least 45 minutes a day alone with my thoughts. Additionally, Denver had changed drastically in our absence and the Cherry Creek bike trail that I took as my commute had stayed the same since 1993.

Marlowe's also had changed. I still had a great many friends working there, but the vibe had changed. I had changed. What had been good in my relationship to the restaurant had become, well, ungood.

Glendale had changed too. Glendale in the 1980s and early 1990s was the place to be. But by 2013, it was likely the closest thing to slum in all of Denver.

But I still had my bicycle.

It didn't take but a few weeks for my mood to really fall. I was disappointed in Marlowe's, in Glendale and in the overall feeling in Denver. I was homesick for Portland. I wasn't writing nor had I been for over a year. I had promised to take a break from being a writer for the first year of my son's life so I could dedicate all my time to him. That year had passed and more time gone by.

Thankfully, at the time, I was still faithful to UFM and my blog. I was still a contributing member of The Sophia Ballou Project on a weekly basis. But I hadn't written anything of substance in well over a year.

One afternoon, I was riding my bike into town as the aging day was growing dark. I started to reminisce about all the Denver good times. I thought about my college days and what made them so good. I started to think about the person I was, who I was as a writer and if anything, if I could adopt a part of that person for who I was at the time.

The decision came in late November. I decided that I needed to get serious and start writing again. This wasn't the first time I needed a jump start to my life as a writer. So, I took the same approach that I had had in years past. I started a poetry binge.

What's a poetry binge? Easy, start reading poetry, lots of it. I started with my favorites, Richard Brautigan, Gary Synder, Emily Dickinson. Then start writing poetry. I started writing a poem a day. I wrote a poem at work after I arrived. I would compose it in my head while on the bike ride into town and I would simple write it down once I got to work. I generally made it a habit to write two drafts, sometimes a third draft during my shift.

This, I think, does wonders for a writer in need of picking up pace. It does wonders for writer's block. After all, you can read a lot of poems in a short period of time and the only real effort in writing the poem is just to start writing it. Once it's written, there are words on the page, it's easy to get excited about it and rewrite or write some more.

This exercise is just that, an exercise. Only about one in ten poems is good enough for a rewrite, at least in the beginning. After a few hundred days of this, about one in seven is good.

So, in November of 2013, I started to write poetry.

In January of 2014 I proposed a poetry project as my contribution to Sophia Ballou. It was a change of pace, for sure. I had been a fairly prolific contributor for nearly 3 years. I proposed a poem a week. One poem a week for all of 2014. After all, if I was writing a poem a day, at least one of them would be good enough to share weekly.

I contributed a poem a week to Sophia Ballou until April when everyone called it quits and the project ended.

I wrote about a 100 poems in 2014. I gave Sophia Ballou less than 20 of them. My 2015 chapbook, “Cockroaches and Geese” came from this time, particularly from what was run at Sophia Ballou.

It proved to be a good practice for me. By late 2014 I was writing daily again and longer and longer pieces which always feels good.

I've kept the practice of reading poetry as well as writing it since. It's been over two years and that's a lot of poems. They are not the sorts of poems to make me the poet laureate of the free world, or the free less than world. They are the process, these poems, this practice of poetry and not the product itself.

Some of these poems are readable, some are good. And I do want to share them because it is good discipline to work on a project to completion. I loved the process for “Cockroaches and Geese.” It has occurred to me that I should work on my poetry more. Not only what I wrote for Sophia Ballou, or the poems of 2014 (2015 too) additionally what I'm writing now.

I am pleased with the “Cockroaches and Geese” chapbook. I feel like 28 pages is too few. I feel like 50 may be a better number. I feel like I can completed 4 of these chapbooks this year, 2016. I choose to do it seasonally.

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