The old muse and chain

Posted by on December 20, 2010 at 2:11 am.

For any who don’t know, earlier this weekend, I released a CD of poems written and read by me called “Tales from the Lake House.” They are all poems from my college days, and the free downloadable CD is available at

When I was taking poetry workshop classes in college, one of my professors always reminded us of something that I have always believed, but he said in a better way than I ever could: “The speaker, or subject, of a poem is not necessarily, and never exactly, the poet.”

The idea behind it is that a poet is not a nonfiction writer and they will, even when recounting true feelings or events, reserve the right to adjust the scenario. The dying man’s shirt was red instead of yellow. The sun was setting instead of it being noon. A conversation from some time last year is moved to last week. After all, the point of a poem is to convey an emotion, not recount history.

I always consider this to be the case of every poem I write, but it is hard to look at this CD and not see the nonfiction parts. At first, when I realized it, I was concerned and went back to my never-quite organized stack of poems and considered changing the lineup for the CD.

But after a lot of thought, I realized that these were most of the best poems I had written, especially in light of the project I was working on. I came back repeatedly to one particular muse — my long-distance relationship.

The passion and determination I have always felt about Jean and I has spilled over into my poetry and made it so that the words inspired by us are almost always the ones with the most passion and determination, and the ones I’m most proud of. Even when they are not necessarily, and never completely, about us (with the possible exception of track 16).

Perhaps I’m revealing too much about my creative process. And perhaps this isn’t really a story. But I can’t keep my mind away from it.

One Comment

  • Big Mama Thornton says:

    I totally love the headline for this post. Twisting a cliche, without being punny, takes a deft hand and quick wit.

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