A poet, wrote Randall Jarrell, is a man who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times.
Maybe it’s just the season that’s upon us but to me the creative process feels a lot less like standing in thunderstorms waiting for lightning than trudging through snow, desperately trying to clear a path.
Like writing, there’s something romantic about shoveling fresh snow – until the wind slaps your neck and your fingertips begin to burn. Then it’s work, and it feels like work.
And anyone who’s ever been on the verge of finishing a draft knows that feeling of swiftly making your way through sidewalks and driveways only to find a barrier – made entirely of plowed snow and chunks of ice – between you and the open road.
It’s dense and dirty and there’s nowhere to put it, and it’s always just when you’re about to start chipping away at it that you see your elderly next-door neighbors in their nightgowns waving to you from their window.
By the time you get back from shoveling their path, new snow has turned your sidewalk into a blank page.
Your neighbor across the street is dancing up and down his driveway with his new snow blower, shooting perfect rainbows into his yard.
You have a half a mind to call him a hack.
But just as you lift your fist to the skies to curse the gods for assigning you Khione, minor goddess of snow, as your muse, you see your one-year-old looking out the window with absolute marvel and awe. She is clapping and shrieking and you suddenly see the world through her eyes.
The sky is falling. There are clumps of crystals everywhere. And all this work almost begins to feel like play.
Ben Berman’s first book, Strange Borderlands, won the 2014 Peace Corps Award for Best Book of Poetry and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Awards. His second collection, Figuring in the Figure, was recently selected as a Must-Read by the Mass Center for the Book. And his new book, Then Again, came out last November. He has received awards from the New England Poetry Club and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and Somerville Arts Council. He teaches at Brookline High School and lives in the Boston area with his wife and two daughters. www.ben-berman.comSee other articles by Ben Berman