It's the Saturday morning before Halloween—a work weekend. Wanted to pop in and tell you about a project I’m cancelling, but also wish you a safe and fun Samhain however you and yours decide to celebrate.
I mentioned previously I had a list of creative projects I collated during quarantine, along with a pile of things I wanted to do for personal growth. Sometimes, the two (personal growth and creative projects) are often tangled. At least, that’s how it’s been for me.
When I kicked off this year, I pledged to do month-long challenges to keep creating, to push my own boundaries, to grow. I started with an illustrative project I posted on BooksOfM on DeviantArt, with a few personal-to-me illustrations that were Mariana Trench-deep, but mostly sketches and watercolors I wanted to do for whimsy and fun. Following that, I launched a 28-day Into Shadow BooksOfM on Patreon event exploring my personal fears. By the end of that challenge, I recognized I kept pushing myself to do all kinds of challenges because of my fear, not despite it, and the anxiety I felt during the pandemic. Poetry was different and challenging, too, forcing me to focus on select words, when words are the tools I work with most days.
Anyway, as life resumed, I got vaccinated ho-ho, and my two weeks of Spring warmed into Summer (thanks global nicening), I abandoned the challenges as my waves of anxiety began subsiding. Now, several months later, I’m finally able to revisit my To Do list in between paid work and potentially self-published. Recently, I revisited those 28 poems and realized that it doesn’t make sense to revise or put them into a chapbook. Let me walk you through why that is. First, I’d like to share one of the poems.
Lament for an Unknown Author (Who Could Be Me)
wild lilies brush your headstonecaressing your chiseled claimthat you’re beloved and well-knownthat words were your claim to famewho were you nameless writerwhat lovely tales did you tellwhere is your last typewriterwill we find it in a wellI’m sorry I must atone I don’t remember your nameyour memory is your ownto my great regret and shamewho were you nameless writerwhich fables did you retelldid you describe a mitreor a witch’s wand and spellwas that a soft hiss or moan I promise I will renametomb of the author unknownto a blessed hall of famewho were you nameless writerwhich stories still echo wellrest your pen oh lost fighterand sleep where your corpse must dwell
wild lilies brush your headstone
caressing your chiseled claim
that you’re beloved and well-known
that words were your claim to fame
who were you nameless writer
what lovely tales did you tell
where is your last typewriter
will we find it in a well
I’m sorry I must atone
I don’t remember your name
your memory is your own
to my great regret and shame
which fables did you retell
did you describe a mitre
or a witch’s wand and spell
was that a soft hiss or moan
I promise I will rename
tomb of the author unknown
to a blessed hall of fame
which stories still echo well
rest your pen oh lost fighter
and sleep where your corpse must dwell
Why did I write THAT poem? The last seven years or so has been, well, interesting. I’m fairly certain you’re smart enough to connect the dots as to why. Even then, that just skims the stormy surface. Still, I’m not embarrassed at all to say that yeah, I had a lot of anxiety about what happened because through and through—I am an artist. The absolute scariest-to-me thought was that I couldn't do the work, my work would be forgotten, or it wouldn’t resonate—a very, very common set of fears.
But also, these are selfish horrors driven by my ego. (Yeah, I do have an ego. Don’t we all?) Then, I had some great-to-me experiences that helped me understand the word “resonate” doesn’t necessarily mean “pop culture” or “millions of dollahs”. I joke privately how my fans (maybe, even some of you) are like Bob Ross enthusiasts—quiet, gentle, appreciative: Three words that don’t really fit our shouting matches online and sometimes off. And, reassuringly so.
Here’s the hard truth: I can’t put this chapbook together, because this poem’s topic is not the only thing I’m no longer afraid of. Offering the collection, in its final form, would be betraying Present Me to remember Past Me. One silly little poem is no longer honest, because I’m no longer afraid of success or failure, of being remembered or being forgotten, of being invisible to my peers or being heralded, of having millions of “followers” or one. I’m just not afraid.
I guess if you’re reading this, wondering what the take-a-way for you is, I’d like to leave you with a final thought. If you read a book, appreciate a piece of art, enjoy a comic, watch a movie, or play a game, considering how powerful your offer of thanks is. It really isn’t easy being an artist in a late stage-capitalist world for many reasons; We just don’t always talk about the reasons why that is. One, little thank you might do for those creators what my fans did for me: Help them recognize that their work does resonate, quietly and gently, for their fans who needed it—so they can keep making art no matter what.
May we all be so well remembered.