Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beginning to look a little like Christmas

With Thanksgiving officially past (as measured in leftovers processed), thoughts turn to holiday tasks. These include mining of family conversations for gift ideas, mulling the possibility of holiday cookies before settling on pfefferneuse and whatever the kids want me to help with (and staying out of the way of the real bakers who us my kitchen as Bake Station Zebra), and the sifting of notes for the annual Christmas poem.

Christmas poses a particular challenge for me. I choose to recognize the holiday with a poem each year, but I don't want to simply contribute to the relentless dreck that passes for art and entertainment every December. As much as I love A Christmas Carol, and for every gem of an interpretation (Alistair Sim, Albert Finney, Kermit the Frog), there are a hundred craptacular ones in sitcom episodes and TV movies. And don't even try to count the Wonderful Life knockoffs.

What pains me is that the horrid imitations have turned people off the originals. So I am further pained if my effort doesn't add something to the literature of the season. While I'm not always successful, the goal has be that it must work as a poem first, not just be "Christmassy".

With one exception, I find that my success is inversely proportional to the length of the final poem. I need to learn to recognize that signal; if I'm having trouble telling the story or getting to the point, there's probably something flawed in the concept. That's true even when it's not Christmas, of course.

It's against policy to talk about a poem in progress - a policy I think most poets stick to - but I can say I'm weaving together present and past, as the holidays lead us to do. Don't know if this will be the last idea I work up (I usually complete 2-3 unrelated drafts before selecting one to refine), bit it seems to have a bit of life to it.

We'll see. Until then --

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