Never have I been so challenged in a single year.
If 2014 was the worst iteration of my personal life insofar, 2015 was my most professionally challenging, both in my retail career and as a poet.
After the dark and depressing hole my poems managed to crawl out of coming into the New Year, I resolved to create more uplifting work.
Looking back, did I succeed?
Yes and no.
Right out of the gate, both my girlfriend and I were laid off in January after two years at Target Canada. Two weeks into my resolution, our outlook was precarious, but I was determined to press on. Early poems in 2015 like “Monologues for Underdogs” and “IV (Ramona, I’m Alive)” were penned in the immediate aftermath of losing my job, and with it, financial stability.
“Of all these characters
I’ve been carrying,
optimists weigh in the
heaviest of all;
opposite to those
-Monologues for Underdogs
Other poems careened right back into despair, but then came “Capture“, which is easily one of my favourites of the year. (Last excerpt for a bit, I promise.)
“The allure of your best is
a cure for your worst;
assert yourself over
the absurdity you’ve
onto and therein lies
This was my attempt- for once- to make a light in pure darkness. Rather than record what hurt, I focused on what shined. This led to poems “The Spectacular Vernacular”, “You’ll Know by Her Smile” and “The Itinerary” in the front half of 2015.
But something happened, and suddenly I could feel all the negativity I had fostered through my original project clashing with my desperation to stay positive.
After three years and almost 1,200 poems, I needed to refresh my voice, lest it be dragged back to what it was the previous year- a depressing slog.
I left behind a huge piece of myself in those hundreds of clicks and stanzas. Everything I had written since eighteen years old. Everything important, anyway.
But it had become a burden, as pasts are wont to do.
Easily forgotten were poems like “Hope Heist“, “My Crow Poet” and “Time Travel in an Age of Stasis“. Gone was “Poetry 102” and “Feud For Thought“. All pieces I loved. All poems that made up my new outlook.
I could take nothing with me. It was self-imposed exile. There was no conscious attempt to distinguish the voice of old from new, but the slate had to be clean.
The difference was instantaneous.
My work, for the very first time since I was in my early twenties, had less weight attached to it. I could write something happy and it didn’t feel out of place. I didn’t feel obligated to dwell, and there was nothing to look past, only forward to.
I was looking less at my past work for inspiration, and creating more original work than I have in years. There were a couple through-lines, though, with follow-ups to the Anthology of Anger and the newly-minted karma psalms (which will continue into the new year.)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my anthology this year. Little City came from an attempt to write my childhood trauma down in free verse. But it wasn’t something I could nail without sounding victimized, and my focus turned to tell some short stories about my hometown instead.
In retrospect, it won’t go down as my favourite by any means (that honor goes to The Killing Wage) but I have a soft spot for it. “Street Lit Majors” is probably the best single poem I’ve written for an anthology, and I barely remember writing it.
So where do I go from here?
Well I’m happy to report I’ll probably be engaged in early 2016. I am on a stable footing. My daughter will turn four, and there will probably be some tribute poem to her. My new niece will arrive in April, and we’ll all go on another year.
I can no longer say with certainty I will be posting here next year, but I have this last anthology in me for certain. I have these months at a time, little ideas at a time, but most of all;
I am most thankful that tether no longer exists.
Thank you for all your support over the years, both long-time readers and new. It has certainly been a wild journey, and I hope you’ll join me for its next leg.