Hello. Well, 2017 is almost over. I have to write two more poems by December 31; it’s a superstition thing: whatever I do on the last few days of the year will determine the events of the new year. I’ve written two new poems already this week. And they came with a lot of hard revision, which, as this blog is stream-of-consciousness (as are all my blogs), I will talk about now. I’ve discovered that sometimes when I write a poem, I’ll have chunks of material, or a great line that I really like, but–as much as I fight it, I figure out don’t belong in the poem. that material, I’m really writing two poems, and something has to go. When I’m working on a piece, I stop periodically to read it aloud. And I’ll find that I stumble, or lose focus. I belong to a little elite group of poets, where we critique each other’s work, and listening to their feedback not only on my own poetry, but on the others’ poems, that that stumbling or loss of focus is a sign that it doesn’t belong. I hate to let go of things, but finally I do, and then I slap myself up side of my head, and say, why didn’t I see that sooner? Moron! For example, in my new poem, “American Primitive” (which I’m not going to show here because of publishing problems), I was writing about a farming event. Well, I started out okay, but then I had these lines:
A farmer’s hearty breakfast:/Eggs over easy, johnnycake,/ Sausage, thick black coffee . . .” Okay, so where I come from, that’s a standard breakfast to fuel the farmer in his day’s hard work. But it just didn’t: the facts didn’t add up for the event I was working with. I tried different line breaks, different placement–everything. And then I realized that as much as I liked contemplating that breakfast (I love breakfast), it was irrelevant, and took the poem’s “truth” away. (I’m not going to discuss truth here in a poem; I’ll save it for another blog.) So, as hard as it was, I completely removed it, which then let me do what the poem needed to do. And now I’ve got what I think is a good poem. (We’ll see what my group thinks.)
The same thing happened yesterday at 4:00 a.m. with “A Blessing.” I’d been reading St. Jerome, and he had an interesting comment about what, in ancient times, infants ate until they were of an age to eat bread. Harmless enough. But I started with a line that ultimately, and sadly, because I liked it so much (“We are too old to whisper”), had no business in this poem. And it only got worse: the infants eventually grew up, AND I STARTED WRITING ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST! Complete with a little essay concerning moral philosophy. Oh boy. Talk about being stumbly, uncomfortable and unfocused. This may have taken the cake. So I took my trusty Pilot G2 gel pen, crossed all that out, and wrote the poem I meant to write. And I like it. I’ve gotten some good feedback, and I feel much better.
Well, and maybe this blog is not about the year in review in the way I thought it was going to be, but that’s okay, too. I will say this: at the beginning of 2017, one of my goals was to learn to dig deeper and develop my images more, and avoid writing philosophical tracts. And I have come a long way with that. My poems are getting longer sometimes; in fact, in December, I had a 3- and a 4-pager. I like them both: they’re experimental, but I think they work. Am I going to be able to find a publisher for them? I don’t know, but I’ve made the leap and sent them out. Many of my poems now run about 1 and 1/2 to 2 pages. But I still have plenty of one-pagers.
I also wrote another story about my autistic character Wade, this time when he’s nine years old and on a family trip which overstimulates him. But he gets over it. I got a lot of rejections, but finally “Summer 1959,” about 3500 words long, got picked up and will come out sometime in 2018. Every once in a while the fiction genie pokes into my brain..
I also published a book of poems, “Night Travels,” at the end of August. I think I wrote about that in my last blog, so I won’t say anymore here, except that it’s selling very well.
AND I have an older book being fixed up and re-released in the first quarter of 2018.
My hopes for 2018? To continue to dig and develop, and try to get a book together to come out sometime in 2019. I find that my writing is changing (as you may have gathered), but I can’t quite articulate what the nature of that change is. All I can do is keep writing and see what comes of it. I must say 2017 was a very prolific year; may 2018 be so as well.
I guess that’s all for now. I hope that all of you–writers and readers alike–have a good 2018. If you’re looking for some poetry to read, try reading Robert Bly’s collection, “Stealing Sugar from the Castle,” Mary Oliver’s collection, “Devotions,” and John Guzlowski’s new book, “Echoes of Tattered Tongues,” about refugee life after World War Two. It is dark, but well worth the read.
And if you want to get in touch with me, you can find me on Facebook; I have a regular page, and I have my own messy writer’s page, under simply “Christopher Kuhl.” (Beware, there’s another Christopher (Philip) Kuhl, who committed suicide; his page is still in place, but I don’t know what to tell you.) My author page picture is the cover of “Night Travels,” blue with an old-fashioned black steam locomotive and a little head shot.
And that concludes this final blog of the year.