A second post on poetry:
“You’ve got to kill your darlings,” my poetry professor would say, quoting an old teacher of hers who passed on the wisdom of how to free a poem. This is how you liberate a line, a rhythm, and a meaning: scratch the eyes out of the line that means the most to you. In other words, delete it. It holds your poem bound to some pre-conceived notion, an idea you want to get across, and it throttles the poem like ivy. The one line you hold onto drinks all the meaning, growing, and thriving of your own words. Everything else struggles to grow around it, climb beyond its grasp. Chop it down.
Part from the idea you have for the river you want to write.
Kill the darling line you want the whole world to know– only then do you set the poem free.
Life is the same. That darling could be a goal, a dream, a fixated idea of who I want to be. You may do this too: Decide what you want to do with your life and then choke on how to get there, obsess, plan excessively, try to figure out how to be who you want to be. My darling stifles all I know. It becomes all I can dream. I limit myself to one idea for myself. In life, killing a darling does not mean abandoning the stars, my hopes. Rather, it means extricating the future from my present. I must live now the poem that laces like a ribbon through my days. Follow instead the whims and God-graced instinct, the fingertips… the warmth-seeking of my intuition that has never led me astray.
It means letting my future and my dreams be “I don’t know” and my present “I am happy” and “I am here.” It means to exist solely to experience and thrive in the possibility of being all things I want to be without holding onto the idea that I must.
For this is what happens when you free a poem: the room opens up and all the words you didn’t know you needed write find the meaning you never could have contrived before. It becomes more than you dreamed: more joy, more journey, less labor and less plan, more surprise, more delight, less orchestration and less despair. There is treat and taste and color in letting go. Everything becomes more possible, more vibrant, and less urgent.