Sunday, February 21, 2010


According to Webster's, the word "perfect" may also mean "legally mature," "fully formed," or "to carry to the end." I realized it is possible for a creative work to be all these things and still not meet MY standards. Then I realized that I don't know what my inner standards are, who set them, or why I hold to them.

I still sting from a book rejection that says "manuscript still contains some weak poems," and it may have been then I decided that the artist in me should be more of a drill sergeant.

All I know is that a few days ago I flipped through my "also-ran" binder, re-reading poems I'd abandoned as hopelessly imperfect and/or imperfectible, and found three that by all reasonable standards were likeable and worthwhile even if imperfect. I wondered why I had been so hard on them. Does an ending really have to "snap the poem shut"? Is "self-indulgent" -- whatever that is -- such a crime? Why isn't 99 percent good enough? 95 percent? 80 percent? WTF? Did Yeats bat 1000? Did Emily Dickinson? Did Dylan Thomas? Are all Beatles songs equally good?

I wondered who benefits when "legally mature" artists are excessively hard on themselves and their work.

1 comment:

  1. I like this one. A lot.

    Maybe the Beatles did songs like "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" just to give themselves the space and freedom to go there... to an intentional less than 100%.

    Our standards of what's good change, too, and that's why so many geniuses are not discovered in their own time.

    Being hard on our own work paralyzes us. There are too many others out there who are also hard on our work. When we begin to see everything through their eyes, we lose our center completely, and maybe even lose that magic of inspiration and heart in the next thing we write. I allow and forgive everything, trusting that it needed to be written, if not published, for reasons sometimes beyond my understanding.