Dabbling in Autumn

The first frost has come and gone.  I watch the forecast for snow, but the days have been warm and just a little wet from Autumn showers.  We have had snow in October, I have been telling myself.  But so far, there has been no sign. 

I’ve been reading some old posts, and I realize that most of the time I sound like an optimistic person — and I admit that the persona I place on my blog is pretty much true.  I try to be optimistic.  But lately, I have to admit, I haven’t been writing a whole lot, and I haven’t been optimistic about my writing.  No, this has nothing to do with rejections.  I get rejections.  I get acceptances.  That is part of the writing life I have learned to accept. It’s something else.

I used to get up every morning at around 5 am (sometimes, the cats let me sleep until 5:30!), make myself a cup of coffee, and sit down to the computer to write.  Then, of course, time would run out and I would have to get ready for work.  Still, I used to get a good hour’s worth of writing done.

However, this past month or so, I haven’t done a whole of writing.  The routine is the same.  I still get up early and drink coffee, but then I stare at the computer screen.  I write lines and then erase them.  I finish a poem and then realize that it sounds a lot like one that was published last year.  I love a poem one day and then the next, I read the same poem and hate it.  Sometimes, I have awful feelings that I have nothing left to say.

Then, I have the more baffling feelings.  Some of my poems seem to be telling me that they want to be short stories.  Now, when I was an undergraduate, I had dreams of becoming a great novelist, and I wrote short stories.  I still have those short stories I wrote when I was 21 or so.  They don’t make me run from the room screaming, but they certainly aren’t very good.  Still, in the past month or so, I’ve been thinking more about the short story, scribbling down ideas, wondering about the process of writing a short story.

I have been thinking about my history with poetry.  As long time readers of the Scrapper Poet know, I don’t have an MFA.  People often ask me if I am self taught.  I don’t really know what that means. I had undergraduate courses in creative writing and I take workshops.  Plus, I have friends and mentors who read my work and give advice.  I’m always grateful for their support.  Still, I think I have learned the most from reading.  I have always been an avid reader, and in many ways, I’m more of a reader than a writer. Reading has taught me how to write.

So, what else have I been doing in the last few weeks besides staring at a blank computer screen wondering about my poetry? Buying collections of short stories.  Reading short story collections.  Re-reading collections I have enjoyed in the past, such as Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage and Alex Taylor’s The Name of the Nearest River.  Right now, I’m finishing From the Darkness Right Under Our Feet by Patrick Michael Finn.  All of these collections explore the various aspects of the working-class world.  The authors’ works are gritty and raw. There’s ugliness and violence hidden in beautiful, lyrical language.  There’s resilience in the characters.  There’s familiarity in the settings.

It’s funny that I somehow tricked myself into believing that only poetry could capture the world I want to write about.

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7 Comments »

  1. This is gripping, Karen. Thanks for telling us about this transition (return) in your writing. It sounds like you are listening to your inner voice! It’s exciting to think of reading your short stories, and I’m sure they will be informed by the tightness and attention/focus of your poetry. And writing stories may teach you something new about your poetry, too, that you’ll try when the time is right!

  2. These kinds of shifts within the writing mind can be so scary, but it sounds like you are listening and paying attention to your own voice. Best of luck with the new writing, wherever it takes you!

  3. kweyant Said:

    Kathleen: I’m excited too! I don’t know if any of my short stories will ever be published, but I am looking forward to the journey.

    Sandy: It is scary. But I think that it will be a great learning/challenging experience. I’m not giving up on poetry. Just this morning, I sent out a batch of poems.

    I’m just trying something new.

  4. Dear Karen,
    I loved reading this post. (Except let me take a moment to say: yay your writing! You are really a much better writer – and more important to others – than you know.)
    I too wonder where we get this feeling that “I cannot write anything but poetry.” I’ve been dabbling in flash fiction, in little essays and bits of memoir – not much of it sent out or anything, but just to see if I can. Like you, I’m always amazed – oh, right, these feelings and ideas CAN be expressed outside of the shape of a poem!
    Poetry is still the kind of writing that comes easiest to me, but I think it’s good for us all to at least try other genres.

  5. kweyant Said:

    Jeannine,
    Like I said, I haven’t given up on poetry! But, I think I need to take some kind of break.

  6. Great choices. We are big fans of FROM THE DARKNESS RIGHT UNDER OUR FEET by Patrick Michael Finn. Good luck.

  7. […] those of you wondering about my exploration in other genres, I’m still writing.  I have written two short stories (flash fiction — both stories […]


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