A Poetry Community?


What an awesome summer this is proving to be! Ok, so I'm not traveling anywhere, and no, no, I'm not doing even working, or even getting out of my pjs every day, but you know what? It's felt really, really wonderful. I've been writing, yes, writing, a boat load, I think enough to keep me revising and rewriting and editing throughout the rest of the year :-P :-P :-P

I'm happy to finally breathe a sigh of relief: I've gotten my second full manuscript to a "happy place" -- and no, that doesn't mean I'm done, but it does mean that it's at least done enough. I've wrapped it up, it has a pretty bow on it, and now it's ready to start going off to publishers. This was my main goal for the summer, and it feels eerily good (while at the same time horrible) to have it, well, somewhat done. I'm going to continue working on it until I get a publisher, though, revising, adding, taking out poems, that kind of stuff. What IS my second manuscript, you ask? It's a collection of poems that explore our contemporary rape culture through traditional forms and classical tales. Say whaaaat? Yeah, something like that. :-) I've been practicing "pitching" the book to myself. I'm such a dork with no social life (which, I'll get to in just a moment).

Aside from that, I even wrapped up TWO, yes, TWO chapbook manuscripts. I don't know, particularly this second portion of summer has been really wonderful to me. I guess it was a happy accident that my summer class didn't make.

Anyway, back to my social problems! I've been strangely hermetic this summer, curled back into my cave and I've done a lot of thinking, reflecting, and writing. I've given myself a writing routine, seen it as a job, so to speak (a job I'm crazy obsessed with), and I think that's really what's helped me be productive. BUT, but, spending entire days, weeks sometimes even, only speaking to one other person in this whole wide world (my Bruno, of course), it can get a little, hmm... isolated? Bruno's learned to just nod his head when I start talking poetics and theory (what can I say, he's brilliant, but a brilliant engineer). And there came a point where I started feeling a little stale, like I was recycling my old ideas over and over again.

So what did I do?

I joined/formed a poetry group! If you know me, you might know that I'm a part of an ONLINE poetry group called Eratosphere, which is wonderful. But, maybe I just needed a reason to put pants on once in a while. Anyway, last March, I gave a workshop and a poet approached me afterwards, saying how wonderful the workshop was, and how great it was to sit down at a table full of women and just TALK poetics, share, laugh, drink wine. Indeed, she was right. I mean, I'm not a spectacular workshop-giver, but I think there's something really essential about coming together to share ideas, to let thoughts and whatever brains are made of cross paths. Anyway, said workshop-participant gave me the idea of forming a consistant workshop group. I agreed and smiled politely, but honestly, deep inside, it just sounded like more work and I'm already swamped with, well, getting out of bed in the morning :D OK, ok, I really was busy and overwhelmed at that moment with work and teaching and volunteering and just even making brain-space for my own writing.

But said poet didn't drop it. She was persistent. You see, the poetry community of El Valle is pretty small, and said poet and I kept crossing paths, and she kept mentioning it to me, asking me when I was going to start a group like that. And when summer rolled around, I found myself with lots of free time, and so, Writers of the Wild Horse Desert was born (ok ok, maybe other said poet had more to do with forming it than me, I couldn't have come up with that awesome name. I probably would have come up with something cheezy and stupid, like Vagina Versers but whatever. Now I'm an overly enthusiastic founding member).

We meet once a month and have a Facebook page. We have a set of loose guidelines. We're all women (which for me is really helpful). During our meetings, we workshop each others poems. Sometimes we bring articles and discuss them, too, when time permits. Our meeting place is a public library, and our sessions usually last, oh, maybe two hours or so. There are currently 8 women in our group, and we're thinking of capping membership at 10.

I don't know how this will turn out, but so far, I've found that being a part of this little group is really inspiring. We come from a vast range of backgrounds, from PhDs to undergrad students to all spaces in between. We're all passionate about writing. I hope that our meetings continue, and I hope that they even grow a little, too. I know that the fall semester is looming. Last fall I wasn't really able to write much of anything while I was teaching. But I hope that the Writers of the Wild Horse Desert will help me to carve out a space for writing once summer ends. I hope that this was exactly what I needed -- some social accountability to keep writing as an essential part of my life. It is an essential part of my life. There's nothing that makes me feel more alive than when I'm knee deep in poetry (teaching with my hair on fire comes in a distant second).

Anyway, I'm going to keep thinking about what makes a poetry group successful. But I know that writing is very much a social process. Yes, it's a private process, too, but writing is communicating, and ideas are meant to be exchanged. And so, once a month, I vow to put on pants, head to the public library, and share ideas with the seven other wonderful women of the Wild Horse Desert. And may our poetry be better for it.