A poem is a pearl

Inspired by a course I’m taking on poetry. Although I am learning a lot and have been given a trove of resources, I’ve found my output to be lackluster. The word “why” floats in my brain like a hard nugget beneath layers of questions. I ask myself: Is this my best work? (no) Has my inspirational well run dry? (feels like it) Is the attempt of something of this caliber at the end of a school year—this year in particular—a bad choice? (possibly) Do I love anything I have written? (maybe a line here and there but much of it feels stilted, stunted, superficial; my verse is not “alive,” Miss Dickinson, I don’t even have to ask). It’s a conundrum, really, how I can write poems every day for a month straight and then dive with great eagerness into a course on the craft only to find my Muse has departed. I am adrift in the ocean in a makeshift raft. Am I having a writerly crisis? (not exactly…but I AM re-evaluating my efforts). Is this my own fault? (perhaps I am not pouring myself into it as I should) If I were to “name my feelings,” what words come immediately to mind? (is “paralyzed” a feeling? How about “shy,” not as in being timid in front of others—heavens no!—but as in going to the doctor’s office and being handed a cup for obtaining a urine sample and discovering you have a “shy” bladder. Which leads me back to the thing at the center of it all: why).

I only know one antidote for writing malaise.


Since the problem is poetry, poetry I shall write. On my own terms, for my own self.

Here’s a small beginning, anyway…

A poem is a pearl
with organic origins
that will not be rushed

hard grain entering
the shell of my skull, somehow
scratching my soft brain

provoking action
jets of milk-stimulation

layer on layer
it materializes
from my own nacre

I can’t estimate
its costliness, completeness
beyond my own brain

…to be continued, I think…

...and, it just so happens that as I hit “publish,” WordPress tells me this is my 500th post.

Cracked pearl. Filter Forge. CC BY

Lead photo: Pearl. amboo who? CC BY-SA

28 thoughts on “A poem is a pearl

  1. I SO get this. It’s like I need the flow, the peaceful calm to let the ideas arrive. The pressure of a structure/stricture that I don’t feel in my soul can mean a doomed attempt. So right now I have 4 on a deadline. Each an ekphrastic response. I need time alone to marinate enough to let the ideas come. Some of my best poems I wrote at night, polished by daylight. I think form or requirement are the scales of piano practice, crunches for abs, barre work for dancers, reps with weights. But poets need the words…so I free write. Maybe in prose to discover the seed that can germinate and emerge. My enemy is the critic on my shoulder. Remember Lucy Calkins says you have to be passion hot and critic cold when writing, creating, polishing, re-seeing (revision) I remind myself of these truths but not always with success. And I have to get the critic to be quiet. I wish you the gift of time. Birthing a new POV as a poet can be so hard/frustrating/nerve-wracking……I know this. But…..I still want to grow. I wish myself (and you, beautiful poet) time and patience, inspiration and grace. It will arrive. You have a voice, your own. It’s splendid. These other forms/ideas are suggestions. Maybe alternate what worked for you in the past with the exercises……because your writing has magic, depth, detail, beauty just as it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pearls of wisdom, Janet, for which I am grateful. Stretching and growing are not without pain. As I dabble with a few new forms, some of which appeal to me more than others, I recall what it is like to be the student who’s not always inspired to write a certain way (even if said student really likes writing). How I appreciate every word of your encouragement and insight here – you amaze me!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Fran, your timeliness with these feelings is so apt. I’m feeling the same thing. You had me with the intro – – am I ever satisfied? Could this be better? Is my well running dry? – sometimes, absolutely, and perhaps, I decide. Lately with the end of the school year I’m giving myself grace. I’m not hounding subject verb agreement or haggling with words as I would in the summer – – I’m just putting in a half mile here or a half mile there to say “I ran today,” in the writer’s world a paragraph or a thought or two, strung together. Yesterday, the dog’s conversations with the deer. Today, his obsession with lizards. Tomorrow, the fury of the fox squirrels…….until my mind can focus on something that isn’t as normal as daily breath to me. I love your Haiku here, strung together, each its own radiant pearl that gained my utmost admiration for the way you always, always, always craft words so artistically. From your Zebulon GA friend – – this is stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was so excited by the idea of branching out poetically – it came as such a surprise to find myself so stunted. I love this analogy you make to running. I found myself cutting corners in the marathon over terrain sometimes barren and littered with stones (at least for me). I NEEDED to write this haiku to remind me of what it feels like to jog freely, to set my own course – and also to purge the stones I seem to have collected in my shoes! (Hmm. Another idea to explore, that…) I cannot force a poem. All the conditions have to be right for it to begin developing…a truly organic thing, and a pearl struck me as just the metaphor. We shall see if these haiku want to keep layering…in the meantime, I treasure your words, your work, your dogs, and YOU! You inspire me in so many ways.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You have inspired me to share my poetry which I finally worked up the courage to do on Facebook. My last one was about my father and losing my youngest brother to cancer. I posted it Sunday before last. Then I received an angry letter from Facebook accusing me of publishing “hate” material. They closed my Pdxdragonfly account and refused to to allow my poem on my personal Omalagaim account. They also threatened to ban me from FB unless I pleaded guilty to publishing hate material because I had called an unknown person a “puto” for cutting up a kitty cat’s face. I am at a loss as to how they can interpret my sad poem about my father and an objection to harming an animal “hate” materials.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Mountain Man
        My father was a mountain man
        At night we howled with coyotes listened
        When they killed my friends: Doug Fir
        my mother didn’t want a daughter
        I sat beside my brother’s bed biting my hand to feel the pain
        I loved my father
        which is what I should have told him
        when his mind still recognized my voice.

        one line from each stanza except final.
        Thank you for listening.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I find nothing awful here. Can you ask for a reconsideration or a chat with a human not an algorithm? Lack of free speech is going to really hurt creativity…ugh.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I was not able to find any trace of the conversation nor to be able to find anyone employed by FB to take interest.
        I have finally concluded that I was apparently hacked and am taking steps to enhance my online security.
        Tomorrow I will meet with a computer expert to discuss the event.
        Thank you for your kind support.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Jill – the pain in your words is palpable, making my own heart ache for your family’s loss and injustice at this horror you’ve endured. First let me applaud your courage in sharing your poetry – I KNOW how hard that is! I am amazed to think I inspired that step. That’s a piece of your soul there on the page, for the world to see… I have read this thread of comments and am thankful to know there’s been some resolution. Here’s what comes home to me, reading your words here and during my recent experience, which sparked today’s post: The evaluation and interpretation of poetry is often utterly subjective. It is a troubled world, seemingly more so every day; writing is a means of navigating. Again – thank you for your words, and your courage. I don’t know if the loss of your brother is recent, but I feel how the pain remains fresh. Praying strength and comfort to you and all yours. Write your way through, friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on your 500th post-an accomplishment. Fran, it is always important to pause and be reflective about our writing.Your words speak highly of this process. I did enjoy your words today and know this your muse is sitting there on your shoulder. Be kind to yourself, friend. Remember your own words. “A poem is a pearl…that will not be rushed.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re always a great encouragement and inspiration, Carol – I needed to write these lines as a reminder to myself! We live in a world of varied tastes; there is a place for every type of writing. Every type of writing is not for every individual. -Just now I am sure I felt the Muse nod. Thank you for your wise words and always-gracious spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “only to find my Muse has departed. I am adrift in the ocean in a makeshift raft. Am I having a writerly crisis? ” Your pearl poem I love. I find agreement because my muse drifts in and out also. The only cure is trying, and the endless scratching out which I’m doing continually it seems. Hopefully… coming to the end of the school year for awhile will be a recipe. XO

    Liked by 2 people

    • The school year ending will fling the door of freedom open wide for sure, dear Nanc! I know I am running out of steam physically as well as artistically, at the moment, just because of the grind. Thank you for your words and your loving, listening heart. Always a gift.


  6. These questions. These doubts. These angels to wrestle. I’m also thinking of your doctor’s office metaphor and thinking YES! Yes! The anticipation, the building need to write, and…nada. Nothing. And the pearl…what a metaphor, how it starts with that grain – that bit of discomfort that grates and irritates, then grows. There’s a LOT here, Fran. And it could be that this grain will turn into a beautiful, lustrous pearl that you hold in your palm. It could be you gaze in awe at this creation (human-made? a natural product?) and see its many reflections in different lights. And it could be that certain grains of sand are…grains of sand. I guess we never know until we crack that oyster open. As for whether or not your muse has left you, I feel you on that. The only thing I know is that poetry is PATIENT. That muse will wait for you. The poems you are meant to write. They’ll wait for you. I have perfect faith.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Poetry is patient. Oh yes. It does not hang there on the hanger, lifeless, until we stuff ourselves into its limp form; it is a thing which must develop. It is organic. Here is the grain, the idea; Poetry considers, hmmm, how shall I dress this? Which form might fit best? This speaks to my recent experience as much as anything. I shall say at least that I am learning and growing in my discomfort (as we talked about before). Poetry’s only going to let me wear my disappointment of myself for so long.:)

      Liked by 1 person

      • You remind me of the story of naked Truth, coming to town, and everyone runs away from her. (Naked ladies coming to town tend to run towards the creepy side.) Story gives her a cloak to wear and all of a sudden everyone wants to be near her. One of my favorite parables…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. If I were to read your post from the bottom up, Fran, I would say you haven’t lost your Muse at all…perhaps you just needed to sit with that feeling of frustration. (Or I may be thinking that way because I just completed a writing exercise on the importance of sitting with “negative” feelings as insight for what needs to be changed in one’s life). Your opening stream-of-consciousness writing was just that: delving into what was wrong, parsing out the whys, and finding your pearl of wisdom at the end. Beautiful post, though I had to giggle a bit at the reference to the urine sample.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chris, it always amazes me how you’re currently reading and/or experiencing something so tied to my ponderings. One of many beautiful facets of a writing community – threads of connective tissue and being so in-tune, on the same wavelengths. Furthermore – such wisdom in the sitting with negative thoughts for insight. I’m reminded of an English class I took long ago. We were discussing character motivation, how stress causes disequilibrium and discomfort so that people seek ways (not always wise ones) to re-establish a sense of equilibrium. Bits of psychology and physics intertwined. I struggled with the writing from the start of this current course, not in that it seemed too hard – except that I suddenly found my inspirational well quite sludgy. Surprising. More than anything this experience makes me think of how students feel, even ones who like to write – there are just some assignments that don’t “speak” to you as much as others, whereupon the cup sits waiting for the creative juices that just don’t want to flow (the sample at the doctor’s office was the best analogy I could produce – ha.). One can never have too much empathy…and I am happy to say I’ve rallied a bit and am looking forward to what comes next! This post helped to prime my pump again (my next poem for the workshop was better) and – as always – I am bolstered by your words. Thank you, my friend.


  8. Fran, your writing is always so painfully beautiful and thought-provoking. I am endlessly astounded by the imagery you seem to be able to so seamlessly and effortless weave into your writing (“…like a hard nugget beneath layers of questions…”). Such a gift. You may someday realize that your 40% poem is likely more powerful than nearly everyone else’s 100% poem. As Mary Ann Wiliams wrote, “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” Thank you for sharing your beautiful words 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lanny… I am just sitting here in awe of your comment, letting it seep in. Uplifting beyond words. “So painfully beautiful” may be one of the greatest compliments I’ver ever received. I treasure it. I’d not read the quote before, so naturally I go scampering to read more. The same author wrote of “everyday grace” (a book I’ve read). Heaven knows we need to seek grace every day for ourselves as writers and as humans. And to extend grace, which you’ve done here in such great measure (because that is who you are!). You remind me of the sacred nature of writing, so tied to one’s spirit. That’s exactly where my struggle was – forcing something that didn’t feel as natural as what I write in my posts. I shall grow from it, though. Thank you for the gift of YOUR beautiful words here – again, I’m awed. And deeply grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. 500 Fanfares for fecud-poetry-maven Fran.
    I melt so often reading your words, I can’t fathom this perfection path but you are right to listen to our heart since you feel pulled to it.
    I read Georgia Heard’s recent collection “MY THOUGHTS ARE CLOUDS” & in it she marvels at how the flower doesn’t count the amount of raindrops, or their varying aspects, just appreciates each one.
    I appreciate all your words, I do, I do.

    Liked by 1 person

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