Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Weekend Read: Geof Huth "Egg"

How do you know when to let go of a poem? Every now and I come across one of these "eggs" in my own corpus. It looks like a poem, walks like a poem, but there's something not quite on about it. I pull it out, muck about, fondle, consider burning, recycling, but no, it won't go.

If I'm honest, I can see how these pieces are often bridge works, or leaping points. They often illustrate a particular struggle before a break through. The break through work is nowhere to be seen--having come to life and been released. What's left are these hardened, beckoning bits of work that hang around, half formed, distracting us from our forward path.

I see this struggle playing out in students too. Hanging on to a poem long after it has taught them what it will. But it isn't finished, they say. I'm struggling with it. And you want to say,  yes, go, get your head sweaty and scraped. Hammer away, hammer. And you want to say, don't struggle. Put it in a box called "later" and move on.

Or, you can salvage the poem gently, elegantly, the way Geof Huth does upstairs here. Give it a bit of air, and then let it go. Whatever you do, you can not worry so much about it. There are stages of doneness, there are passes at a poem, and there are the jagged bits that become the beginnings, ends, and thoughts laced in more vigorous work.

All work is a tension of worry and release, ponder and chance. You want to claim the moves, but you can't always perfect them. Knowing when to let go is important. As important as understanding that some people have to be dogged with the thing that isn't working so that they can easily, as a break from that important work, sketch out the next thing, which might come easy as breath.

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