In Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, there are six poems that I wrote about David in the mid 1990’s. They were, I believe, the first poems I’d written in several years, and I don’t think I wrote very many, if any, other ones until just a few months ago.
Although I attended NYU’s M.A. program in Creative Writing/Poetry (typically for me at the time, I never actually wrote the thesis), and used to run around Manhattan wearing black and doing poetry readings, and aspired greatly for many years to becoming a “famous poet” (and of course it would be pointless to be anything but a hard-living, tragic one), I always secretly felt that I was a bit of a fraud–there was very little poetry that I actually liked, and I tended to prefer fiction (and photography, and painting). But people seemed to like what I wrote, and I’ve always been a sucker for compliments, so for a long time I kept at it.
I composed my first poem in Provincetown, Massachusetts when I was about six or seven. I remember that my mother and I were playing Scrabble on the beach when the inspiration hit me. It went like this:
Cape Cod is the place to be.
It is the place for me.
I like it because we go fishing there,
but I hate the smell of the sea air.
OK–I did get somewhat better at it as the years went by. The poem, as I recall, led to my first experience of censorship. I brought it in that fall to my first-grade class. The teacher seemed to like it a great deal, and she wrote it out for the rest of the class to see on a big easel at the front of the room. However, she insisted on changing the word “hate” to “can’t stand.” I believe that I was at least slightly outraged. It totally blew the meticulously worked-out meter, for one thing.
Since publishing (finally) Holding Breath, I’ve been a little at a loss as to what to do with myself creatively. With some encouragement from my new friend David Biddle (who, like me, attended Reed College, and who is the author of the astonishingly creative and possibly life-changing–particularly for music-lovers–novel, Beyond the Will of God: A Jill Simpson Mystery), I wrote two new poems a couple of months ago. I will probably post them here soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d send y’all to another blog of mine in which at one point a few years ago I managed to post many of the poems I’d written up until that point (there’s also the text of a letter I wrote to President Obama about needle-exchange funding; it seemed to be in keeping with the themes of some of the poems). Some of the poems from Holding Breath are included. Here’s the link:
I’ll be interested in hearing how you think they compare to the “Cape Cod” poem. 🙂
David Biddle’s book, Beyond the Will of God: A Jill Simpson Mystery, is available here:
My memoir, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, is available here: