Seriously. Every time I read an old poem I’m like “Oh hey, this is pretty good! Could probably edit this line and change this word and, oh, perfection! Lovely! PRINT THAT!” But when I look at my old prose I’m like, “I guess this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I have to put in some better development and this is really cliche. What was I thinking here? Wasn’t there a twist somewhere in this chapter? This character is a tad flat. I’ll have to revamp this dialogue… Maybe I’ll just look at this later.” Then I never look at it because who has time for that level of editing?
Wow I think I just answered my title question in the first paragraph.
Move along folks. Nothing more to see here.
I know I’ve written before about how my old work is never quite as bad as I think it is (obviously there are exceptions but for the most part that’s true) and this is similar but I hope to convince you how this is still different and maybe show you a little of how my crazy, improbable thought process works when it comes to my old work.(Perhaps I’ll learn something too.)
My poems always seem way better than expected or at least as good as I expected them to be. I took a poetry class in college and ended up with a lot of work to sift through. I remember getting praised for my weekly poems but still thinking they were mediocre. I rarely put a lot of effort into what I turned in because I usually procrastinated until the last minute yet still managed to crank out something decent. I’ll never forget the week I wrote my poem in 5 minutes and was told it was the best poem I’d done for the class. I was very clear I didn’t work on it for long. My professor overheard that (AFTER she had already graded the poems) and I got my poem back with a couple hastily scribbled edits. Pretty sure she wrote those eight seconds before handing it back just because she knew what I did. What does all this pandering to my poetry skillz have to do with anything? I’m not trying to brag but I think my poetry has always been better than my prose.
I do not consider myself a poet. I like prose much better. The short story interests me as does the novel. Part of this is because I don’t read a lot of poetry and have little interest in reading it. So it makes sense that I write what I like to read.
Maybe I should pretend that poetry is just an easier medium so obviously I’ll enjoy the work that’s easiest to perfect. Then maybe I’ll offend all the poetry writers by saying that I find their work super easy to turn into prose. Oh, there it is. I tend to write poetry as if it were prose (except not prose poetry because ew). The poetry I’m best at? The ones that describe a space or moment as if it were a scene from a novel. Anything more abstract than that and I struggle. So I sort of just enjoy writing prose in… poetry form.
Well there’s an epiphany for me. It’s always what I’ve enjoyed writing for poems. I’d much rather tell a story through a poem than try to write poetry about a thought or feeling. And I think that’s reflected in what poems I think are the best.
My old prose always feels like it needs way too much work to get up to a good standard. The way I write poetry, I think, is why I can hate my prose. A friend once told me that poetry is economy of language. Which is a good way to think about it and I’ve always been a fan of saying everything you want in as few words as possible. Poetry does that. Prose can’t always accomplish that in the way I want it to. Each medium does something unique and I like both of them. Prose is my true passion and maybe that’s another reason I tend to hate my old prose. My poetry I usually wrote for fun while prose I write for fun AND to possibly publish. I want my prose to be incredible and unique and crazy good. I want my poetry to be enjoyable and interesting. Different standards.
It’s also faster to write a 200 word poem than it is to write an 8,000 word story.
And I’m lazy.
So there’s that.