Last night a friend from college texted me about a journal that is publishing poems by each of us. When I say college, I mean a long time ago. She talked about how the poem she was publishing was one from her thesis, and I wasn’t surprised. She’s an incredible poet, but at some point loss led her to start creating poems only by redaction: poems made from pages of text that she canceled out partially with colorful marker drawings to leave in their spaces the few words or phrases that would form the poem. A kind of beautiful mathematics to this: Loss subtracted language by adding color and art and thus, leaving the remaining language as a poem. Minus plus minus equals plus. Poetry math.
We talked about the poets we had been. The poets we thought we were going to grow up to become. Our relationship to the creative act now. How one might be a maker (as my art students like to call their hybrid-fecundities) but not the same maker over time.
My college friend went on to make art. The language fell away and she began to draw and within the drawings characters emerged. Some monster mash-up figures with portioned bodies where one monster’s head might be paired with another’s torso and still another’s legs. There was story there, but it was wordless. Then those drawings gave way to line drawings of faces. As she posted each one, she wrote a one-two line sentence above it. Ex: Lana drives to the convenience store in her bare feet. She walks the aisle in front of the beer cooler to feel the cold linoleum against her heels. But my friend’s descriptions are better. Shorter, more soulful, and somehow, also more clear and direct. They are, now that I think of it, the tiniest of microfictions. A little more than a six-word story, but less than a one page short-short. The faces are the rest of the text. More literary math: Caption + face= short story. As an artist she has morphed over time, and as a writer she has morphed in and out of language to somehow maintain all of the skill of her poetry while adding to it, a serious talent for art.
If I am trying to define her process in order to begin to think about mine, I should stop. But as I am writing this, I am wondering if the act of defining is the big minus sign that quiets the writer in me. Is there any need to work out the reasons why poetry isn’t what poetry was for me? Or to wonder aloud if fiction or essays will occupy the greater portion of that space? Or to consider if anything has vacated to leave an empty space that something must fill? Isn’t it enough to be? Full-stop. To be, and then to make--a poem, a cake, a sick bird better?