“No more water, fire next time.”
Poems come into fruition exactly when they need (and want) to. I suppose, like everything else in our lives, poems are products of the Law of Cause & Effect. If I have my students practice writing thesis statements, I’m making a cause. The effect will (hopefully) be an improvement in their essays. Similarly, I try to make positive causes for my writing. Reading all types of literature, writing in my journal everyday, and simply living are all causes. My poems are the effect. Just because it’s a law, however, doesn’t mean I always see the effect when it comes. Sometimes I don’t realize what’s happened until I’m staring – in awe – at what I’ve written. What a wonderful feeling.
Case in point: I’ve been thinking about summer thunderstorms – a vivid memory from my childhood in Texas – since I had a conversation with my mom about driving into a sudden downpour & having to pull over until the rain eased up. Since heat is an important element in my manuscript – the south is anything if not HOT during the summer – I’ve been thinking about water as a necessary pushback. Yesterday, during a sudden downpour, I started thinking about James Baldwin’s iconic essay, the title of which “The Fire Next Time” was borrowed from a slave song. Nonetheless, when I sat down at my desk, I wasn’t planning on writing a poem. I was going to jot down a few notes & mind my own business, so to speak. Then, a line came: “When it rains like this, a flood / in mid-air…” Of its own accord, the line decided that it wanted to be a poem, right then. No more waiting: it was time write about the Fire this time. And so, a poem happened.
When I sat back and look at the draft, I was happy & in awe. It seemed the poem came out of nowhere, but of course: I know exactly where it came from.