The Writing Blues

Aidan at work on his magnum opus.

My children are ever so much more productively writing than I am. Vincent’s discovering the discoveries and challenges of reading and writing, and Aidan is doggedly working on his own mysterious pages.

I, on the other hand, have written exactly two poems since my mother died. That Salamander will be publishing one of them in their next issue is some consolation, but I’m feeling the pull and tug of the writing bug.

After Aidan was born, I buckled down and wrote a poem a week, and kept at it consistently, for a long time. Not all were worth keeping or working on, but the regularity of effort kept my mind chugging.

But now, sometimes, a lot of times, I just feel stymied. What to say that’s not about my mother and how intensely I miss her? (Which is responsible for the silences here as well.)

I’ve reached that stage where I’m weary of talking about my grief. I miss her. It hurts. Nothing helps, nothing will help, because she’s not coming back. Emotionally I accept that, but I’m just bored with myself.

I’m not unaware of my life’s many blessings, not least of which is a plenitude of love, my dear family, this unexpected gift of a new child in the spring.

I’m also grateful that I live a life saturated in literature: Tupelo Press, the Collected Poets Series, the support and love of poet friends — it’s a financially precarious life, but I love it and am thankful for it.

Which is to say, I love my life. To paraphrase the film, “Super 8,” (which I also loved), bad things happen, but I can go on. I can live, and can live happily.

I guess I’m just trying to find a way to write about¬†this abiding sadness that doesn’t feel maudlin or self-indulgent or tedious. It’s one thing to bore myself; it’s unforgivable to bore others.

9 responses to “The Writing Blues”

  1. So difficult to know what is feeding and what is smothering our writing lives. Sometimes it’s a matter of having faith that the process is unfolding as it should. Loved the quote from Super 8, a film that had a lot heart mixed in with explosions and scariness.

    I realized I didn’t have you in my Poets blogroll on my blog, but I’ve now corrected that. So glad to read your work (of all varieties).

    take care,

  2. Oh, my heart aches with this sadness. When it’s my mother’s time, I hope I can read your poems for solace.

    My advice is don’t pre-judge your poems. You may judge your thoughts to be maudlin or self-indulgent but in my experience that’s a feeling that can be moved through and must be moved through to get to the true, uncomfortable stuff of poems. “Write shitty first drafts” as they say. You’re under no obligation to show them to anyone, and you never know what will happen if you give yourself the freedom to just go for it, whatever “it” is – you won’t know until you get there.

  3. Thinking of you and your beautiful family. Life always finds a way to remind me that there is never a way around these monumental emotions; all we can do is walk through it. Hope you know I’m right here walking with you (virtually, at least). Sending lots and lots of love and hugs (again, virtually).

  4. It seems trite to mention a book here, but I will, hoping that it may help in some way. Ann Hood wrote a book titled Comfort: A Journey through Grief after the death of her daughter. I mention this only because Hood spends a great deal of time talking about how those around her thought because she was a writer, that writing about loss would somehow be easy. And of course, it wasn’t. Hood’s book is a tough read, but worth the tears.

    Thinking of you, especially during the holiday seasons.


  5. You should write about the grief and pain until you can’t or don’t want to anymore, and then you’ll write about something else. When will you be ready to write about something else? You’ll know. This is coming from a woman who has written more divorce poems than should be allowed.

    Remember, Sharon Olds continues to write poems about her father. And Ruth Stone wrote about her husband’s suicide until she died at age 96.

    Congrats on your acceptance to Salamander. See, your poems are finding new homes. And you do have a rich, full life.


  6. I haven’t sustained the loss of my mom yet, so I don’t know firsthand what you’re feeling. But can I hold out a candle of hope to you? by saying this: There was a time in my life when I had sustained too many losses (mine were health-related) and had three young children. During the worst of it I think I wrote only 4 poems in the course of 18 months. I thought I might never write again. There are bleak seasons. I know your mom won’t return as my health has, but I think your poems, the ones only you can write, will be waiting for you for as long as you need them to. Hang in there.

  7. Dear Marie,
    I agree with Kat – don’t judge yourself or the poems you want to write. I think you’re all “this poem is boring” but I’m betting your poems wouldn’t be as boring as you think; after all, you’re writing about universal themes, things we can all relate to. I would write and write and write the sadness, and maybe, the poems will start to wonder from sadness and back again, but it’s not your job to make the poems sit up and roll over and obey; it’s just your job to get them down. Think about them later. That’s my advice!
    Also, do things that are good for your own body: feed yourself well, ask your husband for a back rub or to take the kids for awhile, take a long bath, read a book that has nothing to do with anything you’re “supposed’ to read. You need to comfort yourself and not feel guilty about that, either, I think.
    Much love to you, Jeannine

  8. marie — i love your words whatever form they take. when my mom was sick and dying, i thought, no one wants to hear another sick mother poem. i’ve been writing troubled relationship poems for years and have tired of my voice in those. i’ve been attempting divorce poems but didn’t have much stamina. i feel your longing for poems and your grappling with sadness. i don’t have an answer, but know you’re not alone.

    it’s really difficult to allow ourselves to be self-indulgent. my only thought would be: go for it. you can keep it private if you like. maybe something will come of it. maybe not. but i bet something comes after it. and i need to follow my own advice.

  9. You all write fine & valuable things, thank you. And thank you for your continued friendship — it’s a kind of grace to me. xo

    (psst…I am 4 lines in to a new poem [it’s a start…]. With any luck, I’ll at last have a new draft before the new year or shortly thereafter. Many many thanks for the bolstering!)

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