Well, we’re at the end. Day 30 poems are posted. Firstly, a few thank yous. Thank you to Tupelo Press for this great challenge and opportunity to stretch myself, to get some extra exposure, and to meet some wonderful people. Thank you to Kirsten, Marie, and Kaylie at Tupelo Press for all their assistance, advice, and cheerleading along the way. Thank you to Linda, Dana, Jennifer, Christine, Kevin, Michael, Roseanne, and Anna, the best team I’ve had in years.
Poem 30 – At the End of the Road is dedicated to Jim Spencer and Sonnya Espinal. Jim is a friend I met years ago in a nonfiction writing workshop. Sonnya was the first person at Tokyo Orientation going to Fukui (I met someone else at the airport the day before), and has been a good friend over the past 17 years. Thank you both for sponsoring me.
I had trouble writing Poem 30 because it was the final poem of these “challenge months.” Technically, it is poem 45, but is listed as poem 44 since I combined two earlier challenge poems together. Being the last, I wanted to try to say something meaningful and as a result, it’s a draft that’s also a bit of mess. It’s also three different attempts at poem 30 combined, adding to the mess. How I will approach the theme and direction of the edits gained some clarity after I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s essay in the Washington Post yesterday. Naomi is a big reason I started and continue to write. She ran the first workshop I took in creative writing and assisted and advised me until I got to my MFA. She’s always been very generous to me and for that I am eternally grateful. One of the things that I’ve always admired about her writing and my favorite poems of hers is the essential humanity within them. Naomi’s essay made me feel like it was okay to have complicated thoughts and feelings. That provided clarity for me. Perhaps I will be the only one who will gain such an insight from this, but maybe not. In any case, my poem is my own struggle with complicated thoughts and feelings.
Lately, I’ve been reading non-technical books about aikido. The two books are Enlightenment Through Aikido and Journey to the Heart of Aikido. Both books contain a number of anecdotes about O-Sensei, himself a very complicated man. He was a devout man yet one of the great martial artists of his generation. He was an imperialist, tied into the military elite, yet suddenly quit all his positions in 1942 and left for the country. A man of incredibly weak health yet phenomenally strong. This doesn’t give you any clarity into my poem, but it is how a number of references I’ve made in this and the last poem have come into being. If you’re really confused now. Good. I’ve done my job.