Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake — Wallace Stevens
What do I do? That’s not a metaphysical question, although I do require that debate from time to time. In this case, I’m wondering about the ongoing dilemma I’m having with regard to my next poetry collection, currently titled Unusual Sorrows.
Many of the poems in the collection were written during a stressful period in my life, that pair of years when my father and brother were battling the illnesses that finally took them, just 10 months apart. But another rather large number of the poems came about not within that stress, but without it, and so the collection seems to me a little lopsided and confusing. Loss and disappearance, final days and happy days, all co-mingling in strange ways. Frankly, I’m not sure what to do.
Maybe the title is what makes the collection feel lopsided. I call it Unusual Sorrows in a sort of tongue-in-cheek manner, primarily because I’m certain there’s nothing at all unusual about sorrow, other than the fact that we each process that emotion in our own unique ways. Inside our little “feeling vacuums,” it’s a powerful place. Powerful enough, says me, to start to feel a little unusual.
But of course it’s not, of course sorrow is not at all unique.
Add to that the fact that, since my father passed in July, 2014, most poems I’ve written are related to meeting and marrying a wonderful woman. How is it, then, a number of uplifting poems might wind up in a collection of poetry whose title includes the word “sorrows”? I don’t know. Maybe a title change is in order.
For now, let me simply share one of the poems from the collection. I call this “Re-Inventing the Beer Can Lamp,” a poem that first appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal in the summer of 2013. I like this poem, and I like that it gets to my point regarding the sorrow dilemma.
Re-Inventing the Beer-Can Lamp
There was nothing more beautiful
than the lamp you built
when we were boys, two cans
stacked and glued, wires shimmied
through them, how you sanded
the pinewood base, routed
each edge like fine furniture,
and burnt your letters, C and D,
on its underside. But best was when
we covered it with a pair of red
bandanas, and our boyhood room
became a submarine,
the rest of the world mere fishes.