• Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Life is a Powder Keg

In the past few days, my life has exploded with stories.

1. My daughter-in-law’s grandpa passed away. My son will be a pallbearer for the first time in his life.

2. My vehicle got rear-ended by a driver who said he fell asleep. Turns out he also had just lost his job and let his car insurance lapse, so there will be no money from his policy to cover my repairs. In the meantime, the cargo door on my Rav4 is held shut with bungee cords.

3. A snowstorm dumped another foot of snow on our driveway. At least shoveling counts as exercise.

4. My husband came home with a backpack full of booze bottles after he cleaned out a friend’s office while said friend was admitted to the hospital for detox. My husband didn’t want to put the bottles in the friend’s office trash, so we emptied them out in our kitchen sink, stuck them in our recycling bin, and are hoping for the best for the friend.

5. One of the prescriptions we use to help our daughter manage type 1 diabetes got refused by the insurance company despite the fact we had a prior authorization. Seems some person sitting at a desk reading claims knows more about diabetes than our daughter’s endocrinologist. Who knew?

And it’s only Tuesday.

These are the kinds of stories that knock hell out of time spent on art. But, at the same time, they are the stories that fuel it later. Once the dust settles and I have a chance to sift through things, I’ll find moments that anchor a new direction in thought or call into question what I think I know. My art will take on yet another shape.

And those are the sorts of moments I look for in the poetry of other writers. Today, as I was reading slush, I was struck (not for the first time) by the number of submissions that present such generic verse that I wondered if the writers are afraid to make a pronouncement about anything. True, writers have to start somewhere and get feedback that helps them move on to a higher level of skill. However, writers must have a sense of whether they are digging deeply enough into a subject, whether they are getting at a truth of some sort, and whether they are allowing themselves to use an image or memory that is edgy or so striking that it might (gasp) hit someone else between the eyes. I was looking for a poem that would hit me as hard as the Nissan Maxima that plowed into my Rav4 on Saturday morning.

Time to stop being dainty with poetry or any other art. Dig in. Set the dynamite. Light the fuse. Get out of the way. How else will your art – or mine – be the reflection of this volatile life that is all around us?

DO A KIND THING

I’m looking for input here. What is the kindest thing someone has done for you that has helped you make better art? Chime in this week. Dialogue is good.

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