Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The cabinetmaker’s apprentice

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Yusef Komunyakaa

I think over time—day to day, poem to poem—as I have grown, the subject matter in my poetry has become more inclusive. In the beginning, often I knew the emotional symmetry of a poem, where it would begin and where it would end, before it even began on the page. It wasn’t as much of a process of discovery. Perhaps there was too much constructed control…

What happened was that I decided I was going to apprentice myself to a cabinetmaker so I could continue to write. I knew thinking through writing had gripped my psyche. I decided to do work that would relieve me from grading a hundred composition essays each weekend. At that moment I believed, as a poet, my language could become more tangible doing work that anchored me in this world. And that took me back to when I was a teenager cutting pulpwood from daybreak to sunset. In the woods, with birds singing and animal life around me, with sweat dripping in my eyes and the smell of pine in the air, I could travel great distances in my imagination. Though I had drawn blueprints for greenhouses and read some poetry for the first time, in those moments of meditation, I understood the true power of the imagination. That’s the moment I realized there was great beauty in the world. When I finally decided to return to that world of physical labor, in this moment of retrospection I realized I had a world that I already knew with my body and soul, and for the first time this deep knowing paralleled my thoughts, my concerns, and who I am.

Yusef Komunyakaa

Written by nevalalee

October 2, 2015 at 7:30 am

Posted in Quote of the Day, Writing

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