It takes some time to be able to read one’s work out loud to an audience, not to mention coming to the realization that one’s work can be of value to others.
The work to be a creator is essentially artist’s work. The poet’s task to bring ideas and feelings into the world through words––can we say this is a kind of birthing? Well, if we can’t go as far as that, we can definitely acknowledge that it is a struggling. An endeavoring to share something of ourselves to the world, or at the very least the community we create and inhabit.
Carl Phillips brings us to ponder why we even bother through his question: “What is the difference between the story we tell of ourselves to others and the song of ourselves that we keep private and sing to nobody else?” (2022) What stories of myself am I willing to share with you, my audience, my beloved community? And why do you want to hear or read them? Phillips gives his reason for creating poetry and it will most likely sound familiar to many of you/us: “In writing a poem, I’m mapping the simultaneous distance and intimacy between my obssessions and my demons.”
The urge to create is driven by wanting to make meaning of the turmoil inside of us. The raging within us will not go away unless we acknowledge it and make opportunities for it take form.
But let’s not forget that as creators, much of our labor is about the connection we are building with the world. We want to find our kindred spirits and often it is the audience. And if our work has meant something to even one person, that is the point. Phillip Levine calls this the “spending of self.” The relationship poets have with the world is that we create poetry, which Levine deemed “like truth.” And if we mean to partake of it, we must earn it “by honoring it, by treasuring it in a thousand daily acts, by shaping one’s life to both give it and receive it.” (2016)
One way is to read our words out loud.
Let me begin again as a speck
of dust caught in the night winds
sweeping out to sea. Let me begin
this time knowing the world is
salt water and dark clouds, the world
is grinding and sighing all night, and dawn
comes slowly and changes nothing.––Philip Levine, excerpted from “Let Me Begin Again”