Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Fight to Write by V.C. McCabe

As a working class poet with a demanding day job, I don't have writing days so much as stolen moments of writing.

Throughout my busy, coffee-fueled day, I write whenever I can, usually in short, stressed bursts. I used to carry a small notebook or write on post-it notes at work, now I type in the Google Docs app on my cell phone.

I use any free moment, no matter how brief, to write. Getting stuck in traffic during the morning commute, being put on hold during a call, in the restroom during breaks, and any time I find myself in any kind of waiting room. Some of my best work has been born thanks to appointments at the dentist or mechanic.

My poem, “Give the Bard a Tetanus Shot,” published by Barzakh, was written in the local Piggly Wiggly parking lot. I'm enclosing a photo of the kudzu beside said parking lot, which is the closest I have to a dedicated writing space.

Once I finally get home in the evening, I gather and glean the day's fragments in hopes of expounding on them. The spark of inspiration can easily fade by the time I get a relatively uninterrupted writing session at night. Even then, I have people, places, pets, Twitter, TV, and stacks upon stacks of books calling for my attention. I continue to steal moments to craft and submit poetry on my cell. My concentration stays in a frazzled, divided state between the physical world and the words spinning around in my mind.

I may forget what I wrote or where I wanted it to ultimately go, but that can lead to unexpectedly welcome turns from the original direction of a poem. The fight to write keeps me open to change. I cherish my words, but I know none of them are sacred or above revision.

Most of my published poetry has been written this haphazard but dedicated manner, sometimes taking a decade to polish a first draft and into a final piece. Poems that began in my wayward early 20s in Ireland weren't completed and published until now that I'm married and settled back home in West Virginia. I have yet to even publish a chapbook due to my hectic schedule, so I'm still considered an emerging poet after a decade of published work in over 50 literary journals and anthologies.

Every word I write takes so much frantic energy and thought while already multitasking, it often feels like I'm cutting myself to bleed on the page (or screen) then quickly bandaging the wound only to reopen it in the next stolen moment.

While I may lack the time and opportunities of more prominent poets, the urgent chaos of my creative process produces an intense sense of accomplishment and connection with my poetry.

Poetry is a daily ritual and necessity for me. Like breathing. Whether I can breathe deeply or merely manage a rapid gasp, I keep breathing, I keep writing, whenever and however I can, to survive.

V.C. McCabe's work appears, or is forthcoming, in Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, The Minnesota Review, Tar River Poetry, Spillway, Appalachian Heritage, Entropy, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library & Museum's So It Goes journal, and elsewhere. Her poetry will be featured in Women Speak, a fine art and ekphrastic poetry exhibit at the FRANK Art Gallery in Chapel Hill, NC in March, 2019. She has lived in Ireland, England, and West Virginia, her birthplace and current home. She can be found online at and @vcmpoetry on Twitter.

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