Today I spent a few hours looking at the stack — you know, the stack that big-girl poets call their “body of work.” I’m sticking with “the stack” for now because today I hate all my poems.
Don’t worry, don’t worry. I’m not writing this to seek reassurance, or because Spiteful Gillian has performed a hostile takeover, or even because I think they’re all rotten poems. I know they’re not. It’s just today, I hate them.
Some days you hate all your clothes. Some days you hate all the old, reliable dishes you cook for dinner. Some days you hate all your kids (Well, as I often say to them, although not about them, “Hate is a really strong word.” But you get my meaning.). Some days you hate all your footwear options. Some days you hate the cupboard pulls you chose for your kitchen. Some days you just can’t stand the hardy perennials you planted last year. It’s a form of cabin fever, I think. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.
I’ve learned that these days of hating all my poems come and go — just part of life, and of a creative life. I think it was my excellent friend, The Poet A.O.D., who said of her chapbook, “I even still like a couple of the poems!” Mercifully, these days of hating all my poems are quite infrequent. They, too, are a form of cabin fever. I’ve been working with, and working on, these poems for several years, or for several months, or for several versions at the barest minimum. They’re starting to really bug me. I need some space.
They need some time in the resting drawer. I will place them there after I finish this post. I pledge to leave them there for at least 48 hours, no peeking. Maybe I will leave them there even longer if I still hate them in 48 hours. I will read some things that are wildly different from my own work. I will take a walk or two. I will try not to utter — or even think — the words/phrases “tercets,” “rhetorical structure,” or “Maybe I need to cram it into a form.”
One morning soon, I will wake up no longer a poem-hater. Then I’ll know I’m ready to get back at it, hammer and tweak, redraft, whatever it’s going to take.
What do you do when you hate all your poems/clothes/recipes/kids/paintings/shoes/hardy perennials/etc.? Does taking a break help (well, I guess it’s a little tough to take a break from all your clothes if you need to leave the house, isn’t it?)? I’ll let you know how my strategies work for me this time around.
In the meantime, Dear poems, I hate you, I really, really hate you! 🙂