It would be great if I could write a novel in two weeks. A poetry book shouldn’t take longer than three days, or I could pen a memoir in a week. A first draft would be perfect. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. I recently finished a poem that took me about eight years to figure out.
The poem is about my father who passed away ten years ago. I wrote a few poems after, but then I just stopped. I couldn’t write. Nothing was coming. And when I could write a little bit, it was prose. I tried to write about him in prose, and it wasn’t working. It took two years for my poetry to come back.
The opening lines came to me quickly. And I thought I could finish the poem quickly. But the rest of the poem just wasn’t working. I couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say. My father's death was still too fresh. Over the next six years, I kept writing. I’d put the poem away – once for a year – and then I’d go back to it. This past summer, I took it out and said to myself, “I know what to do” and finished it.
Of course, I wish I’d finished it years ago. But that’s not what the poem had in mind. I had to be patient, to wait, to figure out what it was about, what I wanted to say. And it was worth the wait.
The Poet is Given a Toolbox won Honorable Mention in the CT Poetry Society Contest, 2021
(scroll down to see the poem)