The road to hell; or, death and the maiden. Maid. Whatever.

It’s not only the road to hell that is paved with good intentions, but also, I find, the road to a decent poem. I keep trying to set out to write a themed collection of poems. And such intention sinks my poems to stink. Intention just rots the creative fruit. How do people do it? Why does my earnestness of intention intrude upon my earnestness of expression? Maybe my problem is my choice of themes. My mind staggers around getting interested in all kinds of things. Maybe I’m just bad at identifying the deeply underlying issues of concern, so distracted am I all the interesting things in the world to learn about. Or maybe there is something about earnestness itself that slickens the path to lousiness. At any rate, it makes it tricky to apply for project grants, because I know that however skillfully I promise to be writing poems about X, the actual poems are likely to be terrible; but I might write some interesting poems about Y, something entirely different. For example, I’ve been reading about the American Revolution, and the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and what those Founders really thought, a topic that continues to be the source of much strum und drang. I’ve been wanting to write about it in poetry form. But then I wrote all these lousy poems that ended up being tiresomely ironic in tone, when that’s not what I wanted at all. Nor did I want to be worshipful. What struck me was what an effort of humanity it was to create these foundational documents. And how flawed it was too, these efforts, as humans are…well…human. Instead I just keep writing pretty decent poems about death. What’s up with that?

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