I've come to a point in my life where I can no longer tolerate the burning sensation of disappointment in my mind. I don't deal well with shame in the first place, and earlier in life I reacted very poorly to it. I still do to an extent. This can be a very bad thing when you get embarrassed as easily as I do. I have a strange sort of dignity, which many wouldn't recognize as dignity at all, but which I hold higher than most of my other aspirations.
At this point, getting better has become an obsession. I can't handle it when someone mistakes my work for the work of an artist I don't admire. I gotta get better as a poet. I can't handle it when I come across as cheesy or insincere. I gotta get better at expressing myself. I can't stand when something I do hurts the feelings of someone I care for. I gotta get better at paying attention to peoples circumstances. I gotta get better at holding back. I gotta get better at being consistent. I gotta get better at finishing projects. I gotta get better. I gotta improve. I gotta overcome myself. Some days that's easier than others. Some days I just want to lay in bed and let the failure roll over me. Then I get embarrassed that I'm letting myself fail and the whole process starts over again.
I'm sure there are worse obsessions than self-improvement, but this one has layers. I'll get more into it later, when I have the idea fleshed out further.
Poetry excites me. Of course, I would say that, being an obsessive poet and all (refer to my first post for proof). Yet, the act of writing and listening to really good poetry gets my blood pumping. I love that sort of nervous, delicate elation when I’ve written something good, which feels like I’m a boulder balanced ever so tentatively on the side of a cliff. That moment of pause after I’m finished reading it before the applause feels like the moment of peace on the crest of a wave just before it breaks. Moreover, I’m addicted to the catharsis.
Poetry has inherent a quality of catharsis. I would even go so far as to count poetry among its purest forms. When you consider that poetry is an attempt at a genuine reflection of the poet, the page itself becomes a college-ruled confessional, waiting to hear your sins and struggles. More than that, it serves as a form of phylactery
for emotion. Every heartbroken whimper and triumphant roar has a place in poetry. Just look at this:
Readings are scary. There’s a certain sort of fear that grips me whenever I step up to read. I can’t honestly tell you how many open-mics and readings I’ve been to, but the fear still invariably takes me when I hear my name being spoken into a microphone.
A distinction should be made here. It’s not a mortal fear I feel. I don’t think someone is going to jump up and attack me. It’s not a fear of ridicule or rejection either. For the most part, the crowds I’ve read to have been very receptive to my work. Even when a poet reads and they’re not very good, the audience still provides a supportive, if insincere, applause. For me, the fear is not focused externally at all. I’m afraid of my work.
Readings are an important part of the process. When you get up to read, you hear the flow and feel of a poem more genuinely in the crucible of public attention. Every impurity floats to the surface when you read. The ancillary benefits of exposure and community are nice, but the most important part of the reading is the self-examination. When you read to people, it’s natural to be self-conscious. When you’re self-conscious, you’re going to be more honest with yourself and your work. This is the part you should be paying attention to.
Tonight I want to talk about something vitally important, and immediately relevant. Not just for poets or artists, but for people in general. I had another thing I was going to write about this evening, but it can wait. Tonight, I want to talk about family.
It can be really hard out there these days. Being an artist is even worse. Being a poet is particularly difficult. It gets really fucking lonely, and at times, the constant feeling of being overlooked or misunderstood can really get you down. It seems that times like that, family is the thing to pull you out. I'm not just talking about blood here. I'm talking about people who love you. Real love. The kind of love that will sit by and let you be a dick, and when you're done (or sometimes even before), they'll be there with exactly what you need.
Don't mistake me. I'm not a model family member. For most of my adult life, I've been an insufferable asshole to my friends and relations. My family has borne the brunt of some of the most heinous shit my diseased little mind could dish out. I don't think I'll ever stop regretting how I treated them (especially after the war). I often wonder if I'm even worth the toil and trouble of loving me, but that's just the point; I don't. That's what makes family so special. That's what makes love so valuable. No matter what kind of shit you throw, no matter how undeserving you can be, those people will dig in and keep loving.
This is going to be a short post, and I'll get back to writing about poetry tomorrow, but tonight, I wanted to take a brief moment to emphasize the importance of the people in your life who love you. No matter what you do, your goals or failings, these are the people who provide the framework for you to do it. Take some time today (or whenever you read this), to call those people and tell them you love and appreciate them. They fucking deserve it. If you are the parent or family member of an artist, or someone who is challenged, I would personally like to thank you, because you are heroes in my book.Please leave a comment in the section below to brag about your family, or if you have a question you would like me to answer in future blog posts. Mom, Dad, Rebekah, Sarah, Jefri and Kai; I love you. Thank you for always putting up with me.
There's an interesting sort of panic that occurs when a writer can't bring himself to write. I found myself participating in that just today while contemplating what to talk about in the blog. I know it's lame to write about writers' block, but it's a "soft taboo" we don't often address. I assume it has something to do with superstitious notions that writers' block might be contagious, or that some kind of bad voodoo will occur if one mentions it. It's kind of like the Macbeth of literary arts. Then again, so many young poets go to readings with their tired little poems about how they can't think of anything to write about, and one gets really fucking sick of hearing about it. Either way, I'm talking about writers' block.
I described writers' block as an interesting sort of panic. Really, "panic" is the best word I could think of to describe what goes on in my head when I can't manage to put down on paper the jumble in my mind. It's not that there's nothing going on up there. Obviously, something is happening, and I have a pretty decent notion of what it is, but the moment I put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, POW! It's gone. So I start to second-guess myself. "Was that not really a very good idea? Maybe It's not done cooking. What if I shouldn't be writing right now? Should I be writing at all?..." and it goes on from there. We all know that feeling. Then descends the realization: "Oh god, this is writers' block." Then I put my head in my hands and quietly shudder, because I know nothing productive is going to get done in the next few hours.
My name is Seth Tribble, and I write poems.
There's a constant thought process going on in the peripheral of my thinking concerning exactly why I write poems. It's not glamorous, it's not profitable, and it's certainly not edifying. I often say that if you can't react well to rejection, you can't be a poet. There's an obvious hypocrisy in that statement, however. I don't believe anyone reacts well to rejection. It's not something that we, as humans, have developed a tolerance for, and as a poet, you get rejected. A lot. Rejection is the most constant companion you have.
That being said, why exactly do I continue to write poems? Moreover, why have I devoted the majority of my conscious effort to such an end? If my lifes passion drives me to drink, and the resulting stress and loneliness encourage a tobacco habit bordering on the ridiculous, why do I continue to follow it? I spend all my money self-publishing books which no one buys, and on tours which have little hope of being successful. So even though the slow, agonizing waning of hope for success is likely taxing what little emotional stability I had to start with, what is it that keeps me writing to the exclusion of all other professional endeavors?