We all know, who gather here, that I've been writing for a long, long time. So why am I not smarter? I have a writing partner who consistently catches me making leaps in poems, especially toward the end of a piece, which can leave readers squirming. When he takes off his glasses and rubs his temples, I know instantly that I've done it again. I could beg off and deny the importance of his advice. After all, our styles differ hugely. He writes political, long, full of word play. I write short, mostly lyrical, image based. How can we ever agree? Well, we agree that readers/listeners matter, that we want to communicate and that we must accept an honest response from an honest audience of one. We agree that for us and many people we know that poetry matters. It rewards us, informs us, focuses our minds and hearts on something other than TV ads and holiday horrors. We share a community of many poets in our area, a wonderful reward for the time we put into writing.
I've done the writing program thing and find that writing with one partner is very different from workshopping a piece with a whole group. The response is more predictable, the embarrassment less intense when one of us fails. And then, there's that concept of failure to reconsider. A misstep, a leap into obscurity or verbal contortion is not so much failure as risk taking. We know that this art form demands time and attention, that we will keep writing and reworking so that the other has access to our creative work, rather than that we will have wasted money on an academic program. Ours is a loose partnership based on coffee and love of language, feeding on wit, intelligence and shared values. If a writer has a writing friend, she's lucky. Look what Pound did for Eliot!