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Monday, December 2, 2013

Claribel Alegria

"Sometimes it's a great joy to write poems, they sort of come.  But other times I suffer when a poem dies in my hand; it's terrible when a poem dies a premature death."

Claribel Alegria
Nicaraguan Poet / Novelist
1924 -

Have you ever had a poem or a story die?  The inspiration faded away and what remained was a burnt out structure — a failed thought, a hopeless dream.  Creative leaders have lots of ideas, but only a few come to fruition — only a few hold our attention long enough to finish them.  Have you ever started a creative project only to abandon it on the scrapheap because something more exciting came along?  Have you ever been excited and thrilled to start a new creative project only to find a few weeks into it that it won't work?

Creative leaders are blessed with bushel baskets of ideas, but often fail to finish most.  Creative leaders fail more than they succeed.  Failure is a fact of life.  And that is okay.  Even the most prolific artists and writers have unfinished paintings and novels.  I have read stories of people who work on a creative project for five to ten years only to abandon it in the end.  I worked on a novel for 4 years before abandoning it for a non-fiction book that has been published.  I don't think of the time spent on the novel as hours as wasted.  It is important to plow the subconscious — to till the soil of the heart.

I recommend that you never throw anything away, no matter how bad it is.  (I know I am a hoarder.)  Some day when you reread the work you may find a line or a paragraph that inspires you to write something new.  Unfortunately, I have read stories of writers and painters who destroy their work because they are not satisfied.  To me that is a mistake.   You need to keep all your work, not just the best.  Don't let your need to be perfect to get in the way of exploration and failure or even history.  All work has merit.  Sometimes we have to write badly to prepare the way for the brilliant work.

Creative Practice
This week read and review old material.  Look for a line or a paragraph that inspires you.  Write a new poem or short story or paint a picture.

Claribel Alegria was born in Nicaragua to Salvadoran parents who had been exiled because of their human rights work.  She spent most of her childhood in El Salvador.  At nineteen she moved to the United States and earned a degree from George Washington University.  Like her parents, she also spent several years in exile.  She currently lives in Nicaragua.


by Claribel Alegria

In the sixty-eight years
I have lived
there are a few electrical instants:
the happiness of my feet
skipping puddles
six hours in Macchu Pichu
the ten minutes necessary
to lose my virginity
the buzzing of the telephone
while awaiting the death of my mother
the hoarse voice
announcing the death
of Monsignor Romero
fifteen minutes in Delft
the first wail of my daughter
I don't know how many years
dreaming of my people's liberation
certain immortal deaths
the eyes of that starving child
your eyes bathing me with love
one forget-me-not afternoon
and in this sultry hour
the urge to mould myself
into a verse
a shout
a fleck of foam.

Translated from the Spanish by D.J. Flakoll From FUGUES (Curbstone Press 1993)

Moyers, Bill.  The Language of Life.  Doubleday, 1995.