Once again I am sitting at my desk working. Trying to resurrect a promising poem I wrote years ago but was never able to complete satisfactorily. The first job was to rediscover exactly what it was I was trying to say; and now, after the passage of many years, it seems obvious that I was trying to say something I don't believe. Probably that was not clear to me at the time.
The poem has a lot of the intangible about it, what some might call a spiritual dimension, although that is a word I don't have much confidence in, as it seems to me a rag-bag word into which all kinds of notions are dumped, many of them permanently indistinct or barely formed. I am inclined to think the word is used most when humanity is taking itself too seriously. The best and most believable description I have ever come across is in John Burnside's poem Appleseed in his 2005 collection The Good Neighbour. In it he refers to “the wider rootedness that, as a kind of shorthand, we will sometimes call the soul and sometimes spirit...” So perhaps my poem is about an apprehension of that wider rootedness.
It was not too difficult to change the direction of the poem. Most of what I had written can be reused but nudged in a different direction. I am almost convinced that I have found a new life for it that I can believe in, and it's now down to small edits, but I have been struggling with it for almost a week.
A friend who is an excellent poet, although relatively new to the art, was complaining the other day that it seemed to keep getting harder to write. Everyone turned to look at her with a “didn't you know that” look on their faces, because they all took that for granted. There doesn't seem to be any point at which the things you learn in the process of writing and receiving criticism of your work, make the task easier. Some poems are easier to complete than others, but each poem is its own unique struggle with meaning and the means of expressing it. In the case of the poem I have been working on it has taken a matter of years to complete.
The one comfort I now allow myself is to ignore that feeling that I will never write another poem, that I am written out, that there is no more where that came from. Experience has shown that is not the case. Although, you never know for certain do you? Perhaps. No, I wont allow myself to go down that route again.