Just What the Doctor Ordered

Hmmm. What to write. You stare at the keyboard. Gaze out the window. Contemplate a snack. Pet the dog at your feet. Finally, you tap out a few words, pause, then backspace over them. Repeat. And … repeat.


I can’t say I’ve experienced serious writer’s block, but I’ve certainly had my share of what I would call creative slumping. These are times when I feel like nothing original or of good quality issues from my cluttered brain. Nothing flows. It’s all crap.

When this happens, I’ve found one of the best remedies is to shut down the computer and head out to a local poetry reading. The Columbia area is full of great talent. There are so many diverse, creative voices here, and fortunately not everyone is slumping at the same time. In fact, many are bursting at the seams with good stuff, and it makes you hopeful that you may be able to write well again. If you pay attention, ideas, themes, and images seem to magically come to mind. It could be a poet’s well-crafted turn of phrase that launches a particular creative thought process for you. I suppose you could call it harvesting − carrying with you the energy that is coming out of that microphone and the people at the reading.

I was in such a slump a few years back when I attended an open mike reading on Café Strudel’s back porch. One of the readers, a regular at the time on the local poetry circuit, would bring his work scribbled on all sorts of crumpled bits of parchment thrown into a repurposed plastic Wonder Bread bag. That alone sparked intrigue in me, and it led to the following poem, which ended up as a SC Poetry Initiative Single Poem Contest Finalist this year:



appalachian poet carries his insides around in a plastic polka-dotted bread bag an elegy whispered through lips moistened by fiddlesong he scribbles on napkins, receipts any medium can become a gum wrapper haiku tall hunching wordsmith the smell of woodsmoke in his hair shuffles feet, shuffles papers reads without accompaniment simple flapjacks on the griddle plucks what he can to season the iron


This turned out to be one of my favorite poems, an unexpected joy. I hope you like it. And don’t forget that a local poetry reading may be just what the doctor ordered if your brain is feeling a bit anemic.

-- KH