Poetry scares some people. Even writer people. Most of my early writing, back when I was imagining myself living in a Parisian garret, was poetry. Probably pretty terrible poetry but I'm pleased for it all the same.
Later, when I turned my mind away from playwriting, when I was back in university at the advanced age of forty, I started writing poetry again. I won a few university prizes and sent my poems out in packets to literary journals. I even got a few published.
Although I truly want to be a novelist, I admire my poet pals for their purity and persistence in a profession that often leads to poverty and penury.
Poets that I admire include Sue Goyette, Mary Oliver, Marge Piercy, Carolyn Forche and Michael Ondatje. I particularly love Rumi but oddly don't think of him so much as a poet but more as a poetical mystic. Perhaps he is really a mystical poet. And there are many long gone poets besides Rumi that I like - Shakespeare and Thomas Wyatt and Emily Dickinson. Elizabeth Bishop (who's house I just did a retreat in) and Anna Akmatova. I'll stop now because I've left out so many and I will no matter how many I list.
Writing poetry soothes me in times of great stress and I'm going to give you the last poem I wrote shortly after my dad died.
She's Come to Stay
Grief is this long lost relative that comes to stay.
She arrives, unannounced, and you stand helpless
as she carries in bag after bag.
She tells you, her voice thick, (does she have bad adenoids
that she won't be here too long
and she hopes you won't be inconvenienced, but
well, she simply had no other choice,
and by the way, if it isn't too much bother,
could she put her kefir somewhere in your fridge?
Days go by and she is still here.
Still sitting in your favourite chair,
rummaging through your bookshelves
and pacing the halls at night.
What is she looking for?
Why does she leave her tissues balled up in the corner
of your sofa?
Why won't she go?
One day you wake up and you can't hear her.
She's not giving your bathroom a good clean
and she doesn't seem to be in the kitchen or even
out on the deck.
You sigh and relax into your body
like it is a home you'd long forgotten.
You hum a bit - something by Gershwin or
You inhabit your home, your body in an old
You whistle, even though you can't
(let's just say you can
for this poem, OK?)
You whistle down the hall and
go into the guest room to open the window.
You want the smell of vicks and juicy fruit and
orlon sweaters gone gone gone.
But there she is,
lying in a comma,
on the bed,
weeping her weird little heart out.
At first you want to kill the bitch,
but you don't.
Instead, you slide your shoes off, and lie down
on the bed,
beside your grief.
You put your arm around her
and finally welcome her home.