Jill Alexander Essbaum
I spent the early years of my writing life working hard to become a particular kind of writer. I had certain ideas--nay, visions!--about the ways I thought--nay, knew!--my poems ought to look, and act, and dress which was, in a word, PROPER. Formal. Like: They best leave MY house looking GOOD, dammit! I was little more than a poetry stage mother; they were the girls who smiled pretty for my camera. Mind you, I was good at my job. On the reader's end it presented as a very tidy operation that made for a nice, tidy poem. But on the writer's end it was often like trying to dress a wet ferret in doll clothes: a squirmy, frustrating, ridiculous process.
But children grow up and darling daughters turn sullen and insolent and Shirley Temple takes on a Honey Boo Boo temperament. So I surrendered. I don't try anymore to fit my poems into a fixed idea of what poetry is or ought to be--that's like cramming a size twelve ass into a size 6 dress. I've come around.
And that's the best thing that could have happened.
Because the poet doesn't define the poem. The poems define the poet. It took me 41 stupid years to figure that out.
This is a long way around getting to the question, What does this grant mean to me at this time?
The answer is, It means figuring more things out.
And: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. That's also what it means.
Of inclement climate
Too stoic to open,
Like an oyster
That cloisters a spoil of pearls,
The heart that's had
(first appeared POETRY, December 2009)