Prepping for school residency really messes with my rhythms. I’m too distracted, too torn by things to do, mixed-up with a combination of anxiety and excitement. This meeting-twice-a-year thing has all the feel of summer camp, where you come from all over to see your camp friends and become inseparable until it’s time to go back home to the rest of your world.
Yesterday I sent ahead boxes with bedding and heavy boots and snacks and a reader I prepped for fellow classmates. In a few days I’ll travel myself and catch up with those boxes. Then for 11 days I’ll be in a shared room, eating according to a schedule, sitting for hours on end soaking up strong vibes and good wisdoms. But right now it’s as if in preparation my brain is scrambling to get clear. My brain doesn’t want me to think about reviewing books or hunting down poems or even mundane things like doing laundry or making sure I have my favorite pens available.
But every once in a while the hazy sludge clears and a single thought or two pops through, streaming like rods of liquid lemon pudding through the black meringue of confusion.
I was thinking about how poems for teens always feel to me like exercises in calculation. Topical in subject, but also limited in audience. We don’t teach Dickenson or Frost or any poets as products of a particular age, and yet there are books produced for particular ages as plainly marketed as a breakfast cereal or some new fad. Young children have their poets that remain in print and perennially published, but where do the tween and teens find their poetry?
Then I was thinking that if ever jumped the fear and decided to take my poetry seriously, what I would like to write is nonsense for adults. I look at all these poets with their thin, perfect bound collections on the new shelves in the library and long for a title that says “Hey, I’m a little bit of absurd, come take a dip!” But it’s not there. Plenty of titles that promise meditations over heavy subjects pondered over steaming cups of liquid on wintry days (adult poets seem to mention coffee a lot), or detached musings of humanity witnessed from public transportations (because poets are too poor to travel otherwise?), or lengthy explanations for biographical behaviors in relation to family dynamics (confessions of some minor transgression that has haunted the poet for years).
Do adults not want to escape from the serious now and then the same way kids do? It seems like that’s the message. In your youth you may read poems about imaginary creatures and about tormenting siblings, but as an adult those poems have to be about creatures haunting your marriage or about the tortured relations among adult siblings with Serious Problems. Oh, sure, occasionally adults are allowed to indulge in a frivolous haiku or an absurd bit of verse, so long as its topical or satirical, as if to show restraint.
I don’t like cake any less than I did as a boy, but as an adult am I supposed to pretend that I don’t like it as much, that there’s some sort of adult joy in the parceling of treats? Once, through a strange set of circumstances, I discovered in my teens that I actually preferred my birthday dinner the next day as leftovers. For breakfast: cold spaghetti with meat sauce, German chocolate cake, and Seven-up. Cake for breakfast is wrong? Who says so? It has more nutritional value than some cereals kids eat. So just because a poem is humorous I’m supposed to put it aside as an adult and consume more broccoli instead?
The world is an absurd place, more absurd as you get older and understand it more (and less). Why paper over the absurdity with something sensible and rational?
Then the fog descends again, leaving me to fret about pre-trip details, internal arguments over the reading I should do versus the reading I want to do. Appointments must be made and kept, errands run, kids and cats fed.