Poetry as Defiance

“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”

-William Stafford

An ouroboros, symbol of cyclical processesI have been preparing for my final MFA residency–the last requirement before I graduate. In preparing an introduction for my graduate reading, I began reflecting on the newfound significance of the writing process in my life. More than any specific product, like the black buckram-bound book containing my creative thesis, it is the process I have nurtured over the past two years that I will carry forward into the next phase of my life.

In fact, momentarily, holding the bound thesis in my hand seemed to symbolize “the end.” And then, once again, as an act of sheer defiance, I fired up the word processor, opened my running document full of rough drafts, false starts, cheesy ideas, and occasional gems, and just wrote something. Probably something bad–or worse, “just alright.” But in that moment, poetry was, once again, revitalized in my life.

Poetry is an act of defiance, not only against the conventional wisdom that favors a tangible product over a life-enriching process, but defiance of the sound-byte, get-it-now consumer culture, and mind-numbing political-speak. It defies neat categorization, defies polarization of “right” and “wrong,” and challenges us to understand language–a medium we take for granted by its constant use–in unexpected ways.

I am writing this now to encourage myself to remember, once the cover sheets have been signed, and the toasts have been made, to rebel a little each and every day against a world that wants to tell you, “stop, enough, you’re done.”