My Wobbly Bicycle, 137

Posted by on May 12, 2017 | 16 comments

images-4I’ve realized, I think, what’s the matter, why everything I write these days feels flat and useless, why I no longer have anything to say, why when I come up with a perfect phrase, I’m even not much excited. I think it’s primarily because of my New & Selected. I wonder if anyone else has felt this way. You gather all these poems, a lifetime of them, your best, the ones that seem to have miraculously worked, you look at them together and you say, “Who wrote those?” Because the time of writing is when you were most lost, most not-in-charge of deep river that runs through you.


images-2And then, too, reviews. It is so wonderful to get reviews! Especially good ones. But I have a habit of going blank inside when someone is praising me. It isn’t false modesty. Maybe I’m afraid of it, afraid to take it too seriously and get lost, outside the ragged self that makes poems. So when I read wonderful things about my work, I think, “I can never do that again. They all were miracles. Those poems occurred in some way I can never replicate.”


I feel better just seeing that. I have been agonizing over the crummy little poems I’ve written lately. All washed up. Done. The swamp of creative mind drained. Self-consciousness has at last shut down the factory.


images-5When I began writing, there was something about the (imagined) obscurity of living in Arkansas that was energizing to me. I was the only writer in the world. Or one of the few. Then we moved to Delaware. I found it harder to write with (imagined) brilliant poets all around me, even if I didn’t know them all.  I did the work, but it felt weightier, somehow. Now what? Michigan, another (imagined) frontier. I like that. But still, I have apparently constructed my own weight to contend with: years of my own poems. Sigh.


Then, too, life has not been easy lately. I am the chief go-to person for my 99-year-old father. Jerry’s back is not okay, although he’s not in as much pain as pre-surgery. I am tired. The chemo and radiation did a number on my energy level. Then too, friends have cancer, friends are dying, family problems crop up. This is the way it goes. Age is like a downhill snowball. It accumulates sticks, stones, dead 5351315970_64f9ac79ab_bleaves. It is never as white as we’d wanted.


I’ve been reading a lot, since I can’t seem to write diddly-squat. Besides novels and poems, I’ve been reading about the mystical tradition in Christianity (Julian of Norwich, Hildegard of Bingen, plus moderns like Thomas Keating and Cynthia Bourgault. In the car I’m listening to a lecture series on the history of the mystical tradition in Islam, Sufism, Judaism, Christianity, etc. (Why do they ignore the Buddhists, who have the richest of all histories there?) I’m thinking eventually this reading will bear some sort of fruit, but if it doesn’t, I’ll still have the pleasure of deeper clarity, a wide perspective on the meditation practice I’ve been doing for about 30 years now.


Well, at least I wrote this, didn’t I?


  1. I picked up two books on Africa–one on Stanley, who presumed Livingstone, and one on the Tsavo lions–and the concerns of the familial, personal, immediate, and outer world melted away. I know you probably cannot get away– so take E. Dickinson’s frigate and go farther afield — no, further to sea. Hang in there.

    • You bet. That frigate is in full sail.

  2. The down hill snowball–that seems to get to it, doesn’t it? But sometimes, the SB picks up good stuff too, sparkly things, pure things, like the beautiful poems you don’t believe you are writing, but dear friend, you are.

    • Thank you. I wonder how I felt about the poems in the N & S when I was writing them, or right after. I can’t remember…..

  3. The down hill snowball–that seems to get to it, doesn’t it? But sometimes, the SB picks up good stuff too, sparkly things, pure things, like the beautiful poems you don’t believe you are writing, but dear friend, you are.

  4. Stop not writing/writing.

    • Now you have caused me to be as muddled as I ever was, which is a good thing, no doubt. Or not.

  5. How about when you feel your writing is selfindulgent and silly?

    • Oh, I don’t know, Liz. Those are the ones (plenty of them) I throw out, eventually. But I guess they have to get written, first…..

  6. Fleda, you are tired, written and worn out. The well will fill again.
    It is always like that for me after publishing. The miracle will return.

    • It is so good to hear you say that. I just have to hope that will happen.

  7. Certainly no great inspiration from here, but I do remember when you began Wobbly Bicycle and you wondered if there was any in value in writing it and doubted if it would be any good. There was, there is, and it is good!

    • Yeah, this is true. Of course it’s impossible to know what’s “good.” :)

  8. ““I can never do that again. They all were miracles” Yes, to the latter sentence. Nonsense to the second. I’m seeing these new “diddly-squat” poems, and they are so much richer, intriguing, and smart than you remotely give yourself credit for! I’ not as goo as this as I wish I was, but don’t you Buddhists talk about living in the moment? I know my tradition counsels me to”take no thought for the morrow,” and reprimands me for worry in that it never leads anywhere but to more of itself. Love you, and best to Jerry.,

    • I was living insufficiently in the moment to notice that I hadn’t said what I meant: yes to the latter, nonsense to the FIRST sentence in ““I can never do that again. They all were miracles.”

      • Oh, you know this is all blather I’m doing here, writing to be writing. I only know that I’m FEELING stuck right now, and that feeling makes me want to analyze stuff. One of the things about Buddhist or Christian or any other “clarity” is to see that you can never be clear, with words, at least.

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