Mise en Poetry
‘…mise en place’ means far more than simply assembling all the ingredients, pots and pans, plates, and serving pieces needed for a particular period. Mise en place is also a state of mind.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend met me in the city and we sat for lunch. She mentioned wanting to write this April, the month being National Poetry Month. Writing in a vacuum is impossibly hard; one can be greatly bolstered and encouraged by simply meeting with others, using their enthusiasm and energy to push you if you need it. Writing isn’t particularly a social endeavor and many need the rhythm of other hearts beating over the same desire in order to produce work. I certainly could use encouragement, help, friends.
My friend text me a reminder today that ‘we were on for April.’ It was like being splashed with cold water. She’s serious. I have to meet her seriousness more than halfway. I haven’t been serious for years; I’ve allowed myself to be weighed down with depression, loneliness for so long I finally see it as an illness. An ill-at-ease heartache as if one’s heart remains anchored to a specific, unmoving landmark while your body, spirit keeps advancing.
The last year or so I assumed myself learning to Let Go through meditating and practicing mindfulness. Perhaps I haven’t learned anything at all. I’m still ignoring what’s alive and active and positive in front of me while favoring instead to focus on what I miss or what I wish or what I remember. For example: St. Paddy’s Day my best friend arranged to sit with me over some green beer and shots of Jameson, us celebrating the years we’d been friends—& black men with Irish sir-names. We met after work, him accompanied by his coworker, a young woman he’s been talking to. How she glowed finding the only bars of sunlight slicing down between the tall buildings. Her smile and sundress equally iridescent. We hugged and she bounced away from us while my friend and I pushed on to the already crowded bar, finding the last two seats and table.
He shared updates of what has been building between himself and the young woman, a thing still under construction on which we’ll touch no further. But I came to tell him about the last reading I had, about running into an old friend from high school and how sad it made me feel. I told him the story then he stopped me: Why did that make you feel sad? He said. Why was that a sad story?
I couldn’t explain it. I felt disarmed. He left the table for another round of beers, sat down and went on:
“So, this married woman actually follows you out of the reading in order to say goodbye to you… Stepping over her husband to get a hug from you on the street… And you find that sad… why?”
I… didn’t know. I filed it in my memory under sad, melancholy. My excuse being any number of excuses. But excuses are not facts.
I filed it as a sad story, because… I’m used to seeing my story as a sad story. It’s the preferred angle from which I examine everything. If I don’t have tears in my eyes, I can’t see clearly.
Whatever excuses I’ve made for not writing were just excuses. I am drowning from years of untreated depression. This is what I was thinking reading my friend’s text this morning. A text I received while also trying to get myself prepared for two readings I’m giving within the next four weeks. Instead of seeing the hope and encouragement of being asked to read anywhere, as well invited to write with someone, I almost want to cancel everything and collapse into nothing.
That’s making the easy and negative choice from a seat of illness.
I need to set up everything in order to encourage myself to write for the month of April. To assemble and prepare all my ingredients in order to writing workshop myself. To use my friend’s motivation and energy and shake myself awake. To that end, I’m gathering resources:
a.) Poetry Prompts dumped into Evernote—an easy and superb app available thru any browser and my phone. I’m taking poetry & writing prompts from everywhere and making a list of them b.) Failed and drafted poems—that have been written and should be re-written, revisited. Editing, re-writing IS writing as it uses a related part of the brain. True, its more critical than the damn it all write everything part of the brain, but its better than nothing. c.) Notebook & pen collection—as there are sheets of paper and pen make/models that soothe me, and those that don’t. And draft-writing on computer doesn’t work for me. d.) Possible locations—knowing full well I prefer larger to smaller tables, sunlight to room light, being outside rather than at home, etc. And I know these places will have me and there will be space for me.
Years ago, I genuinely surprised myself and did write poems every day for the month of April. Sundays included. A couple of those poems have been published. Its possible. I proved it to myself. One must approach every day like a detective, a monk searching for the single flower emerged between the cracks in the sidewalk. Poetry is out there, folks. Let’s get em.