KaBooM WritersKaBooM Writers

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!

Welcome to the online presence of KaBooM, a writing group that has sustained the creative lives of a diverse group of women for over a decade. We hope that getting to know us will inspire you, too!


The KaBooM Writers Notebook: Our Blog

Keeping the Faith and Doing the Work

Sometimes writing is just work. It requires stamina as much as creativity—especially in revision, with a draft full of problems to address, holes to fill, questions to resolve. The only way forward is to put one foot in front of the other, page after page, through the manuscript.

In the phase I’m currently working through, I measure progress with a growing stack of pages face down and finished. After that, some larger issues about the structure of the work need to be addressed. I don’t have answers for the concerns that await, which is hardly comfortable. But I try not to think too far ahead right now, just do the work in front of me.

2014-04-22 KaBooM Writing Table

I try not to look too far to either side as well, because there lurks the nasty question of what else I could be doing with my time. This work I do doesn’t appear to be making the world any better. It’s in service to something others cannot see, at least for now. And there are times when I have a hard time seeing it myself. I consider myself blessed to have friends who help me keep the faith, who know the life-giving value of good writing and the worth of pursuing and sharing it.

It’s an act of trust as much as an act of will to write. The words, the lines, the chapters require genuine toil to be well-formed. In the effort required to bring them to light there is the hope that they serve a worthwhile project, but not a guarantee. Does my vision of the completed project merit this effort? I hope so; I think so; but it remains to be seen. I continue not because I’m sure of the outcome, but because for me participating in this process is necessary to be fully alive.

It’s the process I trust. The impulse to write, to create, is life-affirming. The drive comes from some place I cannot understand, but the wisdom and vitality in that pressing energy is something I must answer to. And because the creative process has led me to places of astonishing beauty, I know that following it yields more than anything I alone might do.

Working to serve that creative energy is not so different from the actions we take in other aspects of our lives. We are rarely able to see the whole picture. We do the best we can to meet the needs of the day, to choose well, to live generously, in hope that our actions are in service to something that matters. We set the priorities and live the values that give shape to our days, our lives. We hope our choices allow us to live as a full and worthy vessel, its form growing clearer as our lives unfold.

Courage is what we need, whether to work hard at our art or to live out our lives, when we can’t know for sure the result. May we encourage one another.

Handling Poetry

Poetry anthology illustration

Years ago when I worked for a boss who distributed poems at staff meetings, I started the habit of sticking my favorites into a loose-leaf binder. That binder became my own camera-ready anthology: poems at my fingertips to be shared with classes and recombined into packets for specific teaching purposes.

As life filled, the binder filled, filled to overflowing. When I retired, I crammed it in a box and carried it home to worry about another day.

That other day arrived this winter. Record snowfalls, cold, and ice canceled meetings, closed gyms, and kept me close to home.

Organizing the binder looked like a doable project: order a few poems by author’s last name and recycle extra copies.

Easy.

As I entered Day Three of the project, I was reminded that few tasks of this kind end up being straightforward. I first deviated from the path of start-to-finish when I found myself tallying which poet had written the greatest number of poems I prized. (Mary Oliver, Sharon Olds, Jane Kenyon, and Wislawa Szymborska were the winners.)

Next I made a pencil notation on any poems whose source I could recall, creating a provenance of poetry appreciation.

The individual poems soon came to life for me. Their physical appearances are so dissimilar. Some poems came by way of book release announcement, straight from a local letterpress, printed on high quality paper. Others are photocopies (some few perhaps photocopies of ancient purple dittos). Some poems are printed on paper with festive borders or in seasonal typefaces so hard to read that the giver translated the poem on the flip side in plain old Times New Roman. A very few are handcopied. Even the poems printed on turquoise cardstock have their advantages. Too dark to read, in the binder they are easy to spot.

And of course, I read and reread. I saw that themes converged (themes of joy and loss, reminders to value a closely-named present, seasonal markings), I remembered when I first heard a particular poem read aloud, I appreciated anew poems written by friends and students, amateurs and professionals, and that poem-distributing boss, who taught so many of us to love language on a page with wide margins.

Most importantly, the exercise reminded me that I have written poetry. There, among the I’s, are copies of my work. I remember the genesis of each creation, I relive the struggle to make each poem the best possible, I replay the rare occasions when I took a poem out in public and shared it with an audience. I find images and lines that please me still: a poem about choosing a china pattern written as a toast for my daughter’s wedding, a simile in which I compare another of my efforts to a tomato with blossom-end rot.

Handling words in this way strikes me as a useful prelude to writing (emphasis on “hand”) as opposed to reading, which permits an extra layer of separation from the text.

Nonetheless, I must bring this project to a stop, stop this wonderfully fertile “composting” as one friend calls it and go back to nurturing my own frail seedling words that have languished in the chill of this unseasonable winter.

Or in the words of a villanelle I forgot I wrote back in 1976:

Winter is sometimes fine for talking,

shoring against crack of spring.

Then comes a feeling in the blood for acting.