friday feast: sing your own song

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Self Reliance”)

from davidezartz’s photostream.

by William Stafford

I glanced at her and took my glasses
off — they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.

William Stafford has been my saving grace lately. I needed to be reminded to value “my own way of looking at things,” and to write from a place of authenticity. The competition is fierce, distractions abound; it’s almost impossible not to feel invisible or insignificant in a society obsessed with fame and celebrity. Whenever self judgment or self doubt impedes progress, I will try even harder to sing my own song. After all, I’m the only one who knows all the words by heart. 

by William Stafford

 “The Child Poet,” by Shelley Lane.

Look: no one ever promised for sure
that we would sing. We have decided
to moan. In a strange dance that
we don’t understand till we do it, we
have to carry on.

Just as in sleep you have to dream
the exact dream to round out your life,
so we have to live that dream into stories
and hold them close at you, close at the
edge we share, to be right.

We find it an awful thing to meet people,
serious or not, who have turned into vacant
effective people, so far lost that they
won’t believe their own feelings
enough to follow them out.

The authentic is a line from one thing
along to the next; it interests us.
Strangely, it relates to what works,
but is not quite the same. It never
swerves for revenge,

Or profit, or fame: it holds
together something more than the world,
this line. And we are your wavery
efforts at following it. Are you coming?
Good: now it is time.

~ from The Way It is: New and Selected Poems, Graywolf Press, 1998.

Today’s Poetry Friday Roundup is at Becky’s Book Reviews.

May your muse always be with you!

“I write first drafts with only the good angel on my shoulder, the voice that approves of everything I write. This voice doesn’t ask questions like, Is this good? Is this a poem? Are you a poet? I keep this voice at a distance, letting only the good angel whisper to me: Trust yourself. You can’t worry a poem into existence.” ~ Georgia Heard

“Don’t worry about not measuring up to other writers. No one has the same genetic makeup, the same life experiences as you. No one else sees the world quite the way you do, or can express it quite the same way. You’re already the world’s foremost expert on you.” ~ Charles Webb

26 thoughts on “friday feast: sing your own song

  1. Whew, boy! Did I ever need to hear this today! Thanks, Jama! I always love your posts & this one – altho’ not foody – is delicious & nourishing to my writerly soul! *hugs*


  2. Glad the poems and quotes resonated with you, Julia. We all know these things to be true, yet we still need to be reminded now and then (for me, every day)! Happy writing and have a good weekend :).


  3. Tanita Says 🙂

    Oh, man. This hit me right between the eyes. I had to stop and take that first quote and find a picture and make a blog poster of it. Thank you for such a profound and heartening reminder.


  4. So beautiful, Jama. It can be very, very hard to keep the faith once we realize we’re marching to the beat of a different drummer. But I have faith in you.


  5. Jama,

    As we say in my circle,”I identify.” I don’t feel so much as if I’m in competition as much as I have often felt invisible or seen and rejected for being other. I very often feel ‘other.’

    In memes for example, I often feel like guest at a party who is there only because sending me an invitation was the polite thing to do but the other guests don’t know me and they are uncertain what to say.

    Well, that certainly is more revealing than I intended.

    Still, I very much love my voice. I’m glad I’m at a stage in my life where I appreciate my own company. And being authentic means a great deal to me so if I’m not a popular guest, that’s a small consequence.

    And I am a huge Stafford fan. Thank you for this.


  6. I can identify with much of what you’re saying. I think I will always feel “other.” Outward appearance seems to dictate that to some degree, but I remember the old adage: “You teach people how to treat you.” So maybe I’m giving off “other” vibes and it’s not them. Always two sides to every coin.

    Glad to hear you love your voice and have a strong sense of self!! The internet levels the playing field to some extent, but the longer I blog, the more I see those inevitable lines of division, marginalization. It’s often an uphill battle, and hard to keep believing in yourself 24/7. But I’ll always be grateful for the platform the internet affords. How else would the two of us have run into each other?


  7. Oh, Jama. What is it in this wild effort that can just knock us down like a cold wind? I have “When I Met My Muse” propped above my desk, along with “Starting a Poem” by Bly and “Autobiographia Literaria” by Frank O’Hara. I’m often vaguely distracted and ashamed that they’re all three by men, but there you have it. Stafford IS a saving grace, in the face of so many circumstances. Grief, worry, a bad ozone day. I’m glad that you have him and I really, really wish you your own song — strong and daily. xxx


  8. Thanks so much, Liz — I remember your posting Stafford’s muse poem awhile ago. I’m blown away by how much impact those few words have had on me. Good idea to keep those poems near your desk, at the ready. Think I’ll do the same. Here’s to singing and “selfshining.”


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