I Love Me Some Laser Focus

Tuesday began my edX course, “Art of Poetry,” taught by the prolific Robert Pinsky.

I may have mentioned before how stupidly excited  I was about auditing this class.

Recently, I have gone back to my roots and have been writing poetry again.  I never thought my poetry was anything special…everyone writes poetry.  And that’s the weird thing: I know for a fact that 85% of people have a poem hidden away, and it is special and it is theirs.

I’m just guessing at the approximation of this number, but I’d gather to say that roughly  <1% of those people admit to writing poetry.  You know what I hear every time I mention poetry?

“I have a niece who writes beautiful poetry!”

Yes, I know. I can assure you that everyone knows a 16 year old who can write beautiful poetry.  I wrote beautiful poetry when I was 16.  The reason is that when you are 16, you still believe in yourself…even the really depressed teenagers (maybe, especially, the really depressed teenagers).  You still believe your voice matters.  So you write those words down and make a beautiful poem, because you still have that glimmer of hope in your heart that art makes a difference.

But when you are 25, 35, 55…and you have been working a job just to make ends meet and raise a family, paying car insurance just in case you get in an accident, health insurance just in case you might die, and life insurance for when you do die…that little glimmer of hope for art vanishes.  Art is no longer important, and neither is your voice.  What are you going to do to change the world? Who are you, who lives in suburbia, compared to absolutely anyone else in the world who may be actually doing something in life?  Why does your poetry matter at all anymore?

The thing is, I want to read poetry from people who have experienced all this.  I want poetry from someone who has a crystal ball into the void.  I want poetry that has a laser focus that grips your soul and reveals something inside of you so profound, you realize it has always been in you…and someone else feels the same thing. That connection is priceless, and it is the very nature of good poetry.

I say all this, and yet I wrote, “Recently, I have gone back to my roots and have been writing poetry again.  I never thought my poetry was anything special…everyone writes poetry.


I swear, poets are such tormented people.



I have a B.A. in American & British Literature, but I had to take a poetry class along with my literature classes.  Our final was to send our poetry in to publications to learn how to interpret rejection letters.  I received quite a few, but I also received a check for winning 1st place in my university’s annual creative writing & poetry journal.  So that was interesting (especially considering my professor didn’t like that poem).  I remember the Dean saying, “I had to read this poem 7 times…and then I got it.”

After that, what do you do with poetry?  Who knows!  After I graduated college, Ben and I began our ascent into parenthood, and that certainly dominated my time.

Yet, I was at a rather creative church at the time and the music director was interested in getting a poet on board.  So, for the next few years I wrote a ton of poetry.  Very good poetry, I think. I published many of them in my book, “Petals of Magnolia.”

During this period, I noticed that other people were writing as well, and they were staying quite mum about it.  Me, being a wriggler, wriggled poetry out of many of them; and thus, the in-house journal of “Illume” was born.  I published 3 issues of “Illume,” and it was enormous fun collaborating with other poets.

But then we moved, and the river of poetry ran dry again. I went through 3 pregnancies within 3 years, and we figured out homeschooling during this time.  Last year, my first full year of not carrying a pregnancy, was spent rebuilding muscle mass and getting caught up on projects; but in November, I realized it was time to start writing again.  Hence, The Platypus Directive was born.

This season, it is absolutely time to find my poet’s quill again.


Screenshot 2014-10-01 08.24.16

This is a screenshot of my twitter account on Tuesday.

If you will kindly direct your eyes to the posts, you will notice that Robert Pinsky replied to me.

Replied.  To. Me.

I completely lost my mind, took a screenshot, told Ben, sent it to a friend and also told another friend when I saw her that day that Robert Pinsky tweeted back.  To which she very quickly said:

“Tamarah…you are a married woman!

(as in, I can’t leave Ben and throw myself at Robert Pinsky. Which is just such a ridiculous idea, but it was funny.)

And here is the thing: I love me some strong men.  I really do.

I love strong women, because we are definitely a force of nature.  We are creators and destroyers, who rebuild and create again.  There is a very specific insight from the female gaze that heightens the entire craft of art and poetry.

But strong men are so different.  Disciplined. Like a laser, focused on their craft.  Ben is obviously the most amazing man on earth.  The fact that we found each other so early in life is a blessing…to humanity, I think. I couldn’t imagine the carnage I would reap upon any other person; but Ben understands and loves me in strong and amazing ways.  He is also so adept in his field, I love seeing him work.  Recently there was a company who was talking with Ben, and the notes on him were “extremely technically competent,” which I love hearing because although I know this, I am completely thrilled to hear his expertise acknowledged.

Robert Pinsky is one of these laser focused men, which why I love his poetry.  Benedict Cumberbatch has the same laser intensity in his art, which is why I love watching his performances.  Even Alton Brown has the same laser focus on his craft in the culinary arts.

I have always seen women’s souls like a fibrous root.  It is all over the place, but holding it all together through systems of connections.  We network, both through each other and within ourselves.  It is very impressive, if you ask me.  But complicated…which can be fun, if you take it that way.


Men, on the other hand, are absolutely a taproot.

When they love, it goes down to the very fiber of their souls.  They will wage wars against nations for their woman.  They will launch a fleet of a thousand ships to save her.  And if the core of love is uprooted, the foundation of the plant and soil around it is destroyed.

Men are delicate creatures.  You really have to be careful with them, for this reason.  They can be the very strength that keeps the system together when they are strong; but they can be a vast detriment to it when they are weak.

And friends, I love me some laser focus.  Maybe because it is just such a different perspective from the fibrous root system which I am so familiar with, that it is a mystery to be discovered through their laser focused craft.

And I do love myself a challenge.


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