For National Poetry Month, it's been a good April. I've been participating in a poem-a-day project which has produced several drafts I'm really pleased with, plus several more that might have productive strands to work with as revision time swings round. Here's a sample from a longer draft:
Write from the square space of your office,
of the way the paper clips
can only think of tangling together
how these become us
boxed in the days outlined on the calendars:
blank squares marching across the page
And several more poems from the circus, a theme I've been working on for some time now. What I haven't written, surprisingly to me, are more poems for the manuscript-in-progress. I don't know what that means, really. I'm starting to feel like I've finished that narrative and now need to begin the slow tedious process of actually putting the poems in their best order so that I can send it out into the world. This may have to wait until summer, or at least for a long, uninterrupted weekend.
Just a few days ago, I was able to go hear Sandra Cisneros speak at the public library in Kansas City. Now, this public library isn't like the libraries I grew up with. The library is a beautiful venue for a reading, the evening light was flowing in through the upper story windows, fluted pillars stood guard around the neat rows of wooden folding chairs. By the time she rose to speak, the room was overflowing with people.
Sandra Cisneros read and spoke mostly about being a writer, developing into a writer. She read "buttons"- the small essays that string together to form her books-- from her new book-in-progress to be called "Writing in Your Pajamas." She spoke about thinking in two different languages, creating space for one's self, things she's learned about finding her voice (the voice of a person completely comfortable, in her pajamas)
The audience was very receptive to her and asked many questions in a mix of Spanish and English. She shared with us her "top ten" things to do to develop into a writer. (You'll have to buy her book; I'm not telling!) And she also shared that writing requires both humility and courage, and that we should ask for these things each time we sit down to write. There were several other ideas that resonated with me "You don't know what you're writing about until you finish" "You don't always like what you find out about yourself" and best, perhaps "Write about your community with love, because someone else will write about it without love" (These are from my faulty notes, so not really direct quotes)
She also defined her vison of feminism as "human rights based with a compassionate outlook towards women." She also reiterated the need for writers to write and shared that she struggled with "what good is my writing; should I be doing something more practical?" when writing The House on Mango Street. But it was evident just from the crowd's reaction to her that she has done good work with her writing, showing as one person put it "that voices from the barrio could be heard."
She also encouraged us that we could change the world through small acts, through changing ourselves. I think that's another point on which we agree. I am reminded of Mother Teresa's words:
"We can do no great things, only small things with great love."
It's nice to hear that writing counts as one of those small things.