It’s not that I * have * to write. It’s not a heavenly mandate: if I became aphasic tomorrow I would still find a meaningful life in my family, my city, the visual arts, bluegrass music. Hell, I can make a mean dirty martini and an elegant origami crane and some days, that’s enough.
I choose to write. Moreover, it’s a selfish choice. I write because (stealing from Henry Taylor here), I feel better after having finished a good draft than I do at any other time. I love getting lost in the flow of writing–forgetting about sleep, oblivious to a growling stomach or a blister on my heel–and just writing, writing, writing, for hours. And though I try to pursue poetry in peaceful spaces, outdoors or in my rocking chair, the reality is that the best writing renders your locale irrelevant. I can write happily on the metro or in a cruddy airport lounge. I have never, sadly, been allowed to mix a martini in a cruddy airport lounge. All one needs to write is a scrap napkin and a pen; or just a pen; or just the determination to remember a few phrases that form a poem’s nucleus. It is an incredibly adaptable art, a mental refuge.
Writing is a way of entering the world. The best poems, to my eye, organize the tangible details of life in a way that renders meaning that the reader knew, but couldn’t quite put a finger on. That doesn’t mean that poems should exclude the absurd or surreal, but rather that the absurd and surreal should become vehicles for grounded, emotive or intellectual truths. If the writing doesn’t create a truth, I’m not interested.