Writing poetry has helped me relate to the beauty and craziness in my life. It has helped me deal with the emotional residue of a year of combat in Vietnam 45 years ago and the resulting flashbacks and nightmares. Reading poetry has helped me understand how others relate to the beauty and craziness in their lives.
Joining WyoPoets and going to my first WyoPoets’ workshop several years ago was a key factor in my development as a poet. I was welcomed warmly and formed friendships that have inspired me to continue to write. Being able to share my work and read that of others in the WyoPoets’ newsletter has also been a major influence on my writing.
The meanness, beauty, and love I see every day and the beauty and cycles of nature inspire me to write. I trade a haiku almost every morning with Chris Valentine (former newsletter editor and current assistant editor), and those 17 syllables often capture ideas and images that expand into larger poems.
I'm still trying to settle into some sort of writing routine. I am now trying, without a lot of success, to follow the advice I've found in Rosanne Bane's Around The Writer's Block. She suggests committing to just 15 minutes each day to do something productive in writing. I can expand that time if I wish, but by committing to only 15 minutes a writer doesn’t feel like a failure when not fulfilling a commitment to an hour or several hours every day. But then I find that life happens while I'm trying to make plans. Silly that!
I basically write free verse with an occasional sonnet thrown in when it seems to work.
The Old Picture In The Back Hall
I walk into the back hall, stop, bend down
to take the leash off the dog, catch my breath
after our three mile walk. I glance at a picture
hanging to my right. A young man smiles back
at me, leans jauntily against a small, gray airplane,
right hand resting easily on a pistol at his hip.
The plane is in a revetment built from rusty
fifty-five gallon drums, and in the background
puffy clouds hang in a pale Vietnamese sky.
The picture, taken forty-four years ago—its color
faded from sunlight and age—has hung in that spot
for a dozen years. I walk past it several times a day,
without noticing it. But today, the stark realization
of the passing of all that time catches me up.
What that young man did then, I could no longer do,
or even want to do. His deeds were adventurous
and exciting to him. Today they are the fearsome
and haunting memories of an old warrior.
© 2012 Art Elser
Previously published in Open Window Review, Winter 2012.