My Poetic Statement
This is my poetic statement. It is a little lengthy, but then, I have a lot to say! And much more to aspire to! Check out Fertile Ground for more of your poetic peers promises.
A tree that can fill the span of a man’s arms grows from a downy tip; a terrace nine stories high rises from handfuls of earth; a journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one’s feet.
- Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-ching, sixth century B.C.
My secret dream is to be a gardener. To call myself one who gardens. “Me? Oh yeah,” I will say humbly, kicking the fertile ground at my feet, “I planted 2000 tulip bulbs last spring. Who knew they would self-split and double?”
The truth is, I know little to nothing about true gardening. I’m pretty sure my yard isn’t even big enough for 2000 bulbs, I really have no idea how to plant tulip bulbs, and I’m almost positive “self-split” isn’t a word, let alone a naturally occurring phenomenon.
But, a girl can dream. And somewhere, in my piles and baskets and folders of notes and paper poetry ephemera, I have an index card with crayoned directions on how to plant tulip bulbs. A dad of a student at my art studio dictated the simple, s-i-m-p-l-e directions to me last year. I have yet to plant a bulb, let alone anything from seed.
Still, from seed is how I long to garden, and from seed is how I write my poems. The seed of an idea, the seed of a fabulous word will lodge itself between my pointer finger and my thumb and I have no choice but to plant it with pencil and paper. Sometimes, because I am a modern girl, after all, I will push that seed down, down, down, firmly between the grey keys in the plastic earth of my laptop, and without too much hard work, up blooms a poem.
However, a fool and her seeds are soon parted, and, as Marcia Hollis, author of Down to Earth, reminds us, “A garden, whether formal or natural, must be cared for, and even those natural plantings are not so easy to maintain as they look.” To grow, you must obviously plant. To plant well, you must plan. The same holds true for writing poetry.
I am a poor gardener. The two gardens in my front yard sat vacant and neglected most of the spring and summer. It was too hot to * plant. It was too rainy. I was too busy. (Author’s note: feel free to insert “write poetry” whenever you see the word plant!).
In April, I began to think about those bulbs I should have planted. In late June, I dragged the whole family into the dirt—weeding, hoeing, getting ready for the annuals I would surely plant alongside tomatoes and cucumbers. In May, I planted two lilacs. One died. One thrived. In mid-August, I planted three beautiful sunflowers. Tall and willowy, they lounged like lean, big-headed supermodels against the front of my house. After two days, all but one was beheaded, their stalks chewed to nubbins by an unidentified four-legged stalker.
Now, with the onset of a northeast winter not far off, I am finally planting yellow mums. I vowed I would not garden willy-nilly, but stick with all yellow—a harmonious golden wheel of color circling my bird bath. Last Saturday, I bought orange and white mums. I let my two-year-old fill her pint-sized cart with purple and maroon. There is a riot of color in my front yard. A regular circus. If I had done it sooner, we could have reveled in the festivity that much longer.
What I have learned from my flora and fauna follies is a lesson well-applied to my notion of poetry, my poems and my writing practice. Day after day, I carry around seeds for poems. Ideas, images, lines, sometimes even full poems, springing forth from the hard-packed dirt of my daily life. Luckily, I am a much more dedicated, confident writer than I am a gardener.
To grow a poem, I must not only till the soil—read poetry books, think about poems, gather words—I must sow the seeds, water the ground, toss the weeds and every now and then, play the garden some nice soft music. I must sit down to write every day. I must believe in my abilities as a poet. I must fine tune my poems. I must share them with others. I must send them out into the world.
And keep tending.
Fallow has no place in a real gardener’s life. Not a “self-splitting” gardener’s life. And certainly not a poet’s life.
Here is my challenge to myself: There will be no more green tomatoes, never ripening from lack of water, on my vines. I will dig in the dirt, turn the earth, plant, water, repeat.
I will read, write, edit, send out into the world, repeat.