spelling poetry w/o d-i-v-o-r-c-e

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guess how many marriage/divorce poems were in my most recent poetry packet for my MFA mentor? ZERO. yup! that’s right: zero! guess how many marriage/divorce poems were in the packet before that? also zero. absolutely none!

there’ll always be love/relationship-stuff in my poetry, of course. hi, my name is carolee, and i believe tenderness and desire make the world go ’round and that its lack puts the brakes on. however, i’m learning to make my poetry less about what’s sucked for me and more about what sucks for all of us. isn’t that great news?! you’re welcome… ha ha 😉

but to be serious, i’m learning to write more about what’s fascinating about love/relationships (be they good or bad) instead of only what’s maddening. and i’m learning to write about them as one piece of the puzzle, not the entire scope of what it is to be alive in this amazing and disturbing world.

i attribute the extremely-welcome expansion of my repertoire to the astute insights of angie estes and mark irwin (with whom i’ve been studying at ashland university). while being sure to help me bring out what works in my poems (& staying true to my voice), they’ve both brought into my reach something far more expansive. consider this quote from jorie graham, which has been like oxygen to me since mark gave it to our workshop group during this summer’s residency:

the poetry that fails the genius of its medium today is the poetry of mere self. it embarrasses. the voice in it not large but inflated. a voice that expands not to the size of a soul (capable of being both personal and communal, both private and historical) but to the size of an ego.

all the wonder i feel about science and space and bodies and art and peace would be wasted if i related it only to my marriage and divorce. if i get nothing else out of my MFA studies, this opening will have been worth it. the whole world was passing me by (that’s why i chose the image i did for the top of this post).

when the student is ready, the teacher will appear
the timing of the messages was perfect! i had spent a lot of time writing nothing because i was tired of writing about a crappy marriage and an icky divorce. i was angry that every time i sat down to write, it butted in. i started to think i didn’t know how to write about anything else. i didn’t even know what “anything else” might be.

it felt a lot like my later high school years, actually. i had been writing then, too, and stopped. i still craved it, and i still sat down to attempt it, but i was tired of my own voice.  i was tired of only being able to process what was right in front of me: teen angst (at that time). it wasn’t that i couldn’t see anything else; it was that i didn’t believe i had the authority.

i’d like to think my recent frustrations were less about creative failings and more about the narrow field of vision an experience like divorce can force. but it would be severely understated to say, i have been ready to move on.

you & your little dog, too
it’s not just the poetry. it’s this blog, too. i’ve revised its tagline:  “on poetry, parenting, divorce, love & life in downtown albany.” i felt like i didn’t know what i wanted to write about here, either. i vacillated between having to write about divorce and avoiding writing about divorce. it all made me a bit queasy. and it’s kept me from posting.

but it’s more than the blog, too: i’m pretty much over the i’m-going-through-a-divorce storyline entirely. i’m ready to shed it. to skinny dip my way through my life. to dive into my relationship not as antidote but as its own Very Good Love. to explore motherhood and citizenship without schlepping around my baggage and lamenting its weight. to be an artist not as survivor of anything but as one with tremendous fire and spirit apart from battle.

yes: illness, loss, trauma — they inform who we are in the world, and they make their way into our writing. but i no longer feel like leading with it. perhaps those of you who’ve been through such difficulties can relate? we want our lives to be larger. and so they are. but we have to insist on it. we have to be accountable to it.

time to partay
within a matter of days, the papers will arrive. at this point, they’re more symbolic than anything (permission to use my maiden name on official documents, for example). and so when i have those 211 pages (!) in my hands and i uncork the bubbly, i’ll be thinking of the symbols, the old ones and the news ones. the future ones, too.

and it will finally feel like i have something to celebrate. i’ve been postponing the actual celebration waiting for it to feel right. dear universe, dear poetry muse, dear love, dear friends: it’s right.


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