National Poetry Month came and went this year. The academic year came and went, and then summer was upon me, and I wrote and I read, and all summer I’ve thought about what I learned during April 2018: it is perfectly okay to write a messy poem.
The mess we make when we write is where we find our hearts, our truths, but we don’t find them at first. We find them by writing the messy poem again, then again. We might have to write it five or ten times before we find what we’re looking for or what works. I had to give myself permission to write the messy poem. I had to stop myself from writing the tidy poem or seeking a clean ending, even a clean beginning. I had to let myself make a complete mess then I could go back and find the beauty.
All summer I’ve been writing messy poems. I even wrote a messy sequence. Because I’m letting myself write whatever I need to and make whatever mess I need to make, I am also slowing down. I’m thinking while I read and write. I entertain possibility and try it in my own work. Everything is possible when we write messy poems. We are giving ourselves permission to see what happens and follow the path we think is most intriguing, or exciting, or interesting. Whatever we think works for the poem we will try, but we can’t do this unless we first give ourselves permission to be untidy.
It’s my plan to keep this way of thinking in mind as I continue writing. I want to follow the paths that open themselves to me as I write. They will change slightly as I move forward, but that’s the beauty of what we do as writers, as poets. We have so many options. One way to find them is to make a mess.