I’m nimble, now, at catching thoughts —
I put them into words
like fireflies in an old jam jar
or cages full of birds.
Eventually, I take them out —
they do not fly away —
but sit beside each other
in a neat poetic way.
So, I’m not. Nimble at catching my thoughts, that is. Quite the opposite. Mine are like dragonflies, abundant, right there in front of me but impossible to corral.
If you’ve ever spent time beside a pond, a marsh or a slow-moving creek (anywhere there are reeds) you’ll have seen dragonflies and damselflies. Probably plenty of them. But have you (or your kiddos) ever tried to catch one? Almost impossible!
Despite having wingspans less than five inches, dragonflies are the insect equivalent of the Harrier Jump Jet:
- one is and one appears to be jet-powered
- both are capable of vertical short take-offs and landings (V/Stol in military terms)
- both are incredibly fast flyers (the dragonfly being the fastest insect at 35mph)
- both are predatory flyers, designed for offence – one an attack aircraft, the other an ultra-efficient insect hunter
I love dragon and damsel flies; they’re elegant, they beautify our wetlands, they are fun to watch and – best – they devour hundreds of mossies every day. And they’re elusive, like so many of my ideas and thoughts.
Writing poetry is an all-encompassing, solitary, self-involved endeavour and because I’m not nimble at catching my thoughts, it sometimes feels like hard work. Not creativity. Not art.
“Think of a ballet dancer at the barre. Plié, elevé, battement, tendu. She is practicing, because she knows that there is no difference between practice and art. The practice is the art.”**
Too often my ideas seem limitless; wild and riotous, caroming back and forth in my imagination, refusing to be tamed or controlled. Sometimes I despair of them ever finding that desirous pathway from thought to fingers to screen. It is emotional work, this creative flying, and a bit like cultivating plants now with the hope of seeing blooms one day far down the road. A healthy dose of faith is necessary. In that way, my writing is quite like that ballet dancer, practicing at the barre.
Reading poetry has always shown me a different way to see my world and to interpret my experiences. I love the concentration of imagery in compendious format and the immediacy of my reaction and emotion. That’s my goal with my own compositions. I’m always striving to transform my memories, truths and experiences into rhapsodic verse. Mostly failing. Abysmally. But I remain at the barre, practicing faithfully in the hopes that one day… Maybe at one hundred and one years of age?*
Be kind to one another.***
’Til next time, y’all…
*Sarah Yerkes, Days of Blue and Flame In June 2019, at age 101, Sarah Yerkes had her first book, a volume of poetry (Days of Blue and Flame) published. I’m a little bit in love with and entirely in awe of this amazing woman! Ms. Yerkes’ degrees include architecture, landscape architecture and design. Her career includes landscape gardening, sculpting and now writing. She says, “I really feel like the good fairies were standing over my cradle, giving me the oomph to create.”
**Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
Note: Quick tip to tell if you’re looking at a Dragon or Damsel Fly: At rest, the dragonfly’s wings remain fully extended (airplane-styles) whilst the damsel fly’s are folded flat atop their backs.