ph. by LT
Oftentimes, the worst thing to ask a poet is: “Can you write about love?”
Death is a preferable subject, or disease, suicide, war, religion, but never quite love. Why? Because Shakespeare wrote all the love poems. Love turns good writing into hallmark cards. Love is never as powerful as pain. And other tepid warnings were drilled into me since I could remember.
The truth is I’d been having a hard time in Seattle. Resurrecting myself after what I felt was the failure of a first novel, an MFA with surmounting debt, the wreckage of reuniting with my parents, and an end to a defining relationship, I could not bring myself to write. I’d lost all confidence, and with it, my creativity.
Worse than unhappy, I became indifferent.
Then a friend of mine, Sean, said we only recall times of pain, never reflecting on times we feel loved. It allows us to adapt from our mistakes, sure, but when we feel loved, we are not processing. Rather, we are alive. What if, Sean asked me, if we created such environments for others and inside the work we love to do? Would it affect our project, health, family, friendships — would we then come alive?
For the sake of the exercise, I summoned a single moment I felt loved. I must have been twelve, sitting on the floor of my grandma’s apartment, looking past her screen door at the morning sun that came shining through her home like an effervescent tunnel, and hearing my grandma fidget with the garden hose beyond the screen. Her shadow came in and out of the light. I was wrapped in the glow of what I believed, and now know, was love. After years, I still miss her and the world she created for me.
In my career, I avoided the subject of love. I look at my mother praying, and though I’m not religious, I see love welling up inside her small body. I wonder if I could be a vessel for what is selfless, patient, exuberant. Would it make me more of a writer, a woman, a human being?
I started a manuscript titled, “The Great Love of a Poet.” I’m 30K words in, and though it took me 6 months, I’ll need at least another year. Perhaps the manuscript may not be as powerful as one that devastates, but I like how I am writing while writing about love. Love neither necessitates pain nor expectation; love can be just as it is, and in it, one can live. Knowing that I risk failure, again, I am also trying to change.