Thursday, February 09, 2006

hating my face off

I am learning my poem for the Poetry Face Off. To prepare, I memorize my poem and do my best to bring it to life with my voice, face and guestures, embodying and expressing what the poem is about. When I'm really prepared, and on top of a poem or really inside it, I love taking the poem onto the stage. I feel excited and alive. I perform the poem and the people in the audience laugh or cheer, or (even better) they are completely silent. It's just about the best feeling I know. It's a kind of total communication that is fleeting and unusual and very potent.

Along the way to that very good feeling is a period of awkwardness and confusion bordering on despair. This happens when I have the words just barely memorized. I practise out loud, usually while I'm driving in the car. While I'm practising I lose track of my original excitement about the concept and shape and sounds of the poem. The words sound bumpy, the rhythm goes all askew. I mispronounce phrases. I stutter and spit. I get parts of the poem out of order and find redundancy and repetition all over the place. Ideas that seemed strong and true go flat. I think to myself, "This is the stupidest poem I have ever written and it sounds like a bucket of whistling flounders." Parts that I thought were original are suddenly painfully derivative. I have even called up friends to say, "I think I took this part from someone else's poem but I don't know whose. Can you help me figure out where I got it?" I lose faith in the poem and hate it for a while, but I keep working on it even though I hate it.

At some point I get past the bumbles. I either fix them or make peace with them. I play and play with the sounds until I discover the way I want to say them. The poem comes back up out of the muck and I love it again.

In a few days that's where I'll be. I hope I'll merge happily with this poem in time for the Poetry Face Off. I want to do a wonderful job. I want to feel connected and luminous and worthy of the attention. I want to come across with this poem, and go home after saying, "Yes. That's a good poem and I made it."

So back I go to practise and practise and practise. I can't wait to find that poem again.

question: how soon will I love this poem again?

mompoet - been down this road before


Carol said...

That sounds so wonderful but thanks for telling of the awkwardness that is a part of the preparation too. I wish I could hear it!

mompoet said...

Thanks Carol. I'm wondering about other artistic endeavours. Is it the same when someone is making a painting or choreographing a dance?

The show will be on radio the weekend following. I'll post the day, time and link so you can listen on the web if you like.
I will also post the poem after the show so you can read it.