Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Nagmeh Phelan - My Writing Day

I work in advertising full time. This is out of necessity as my husband is also an artist – a filmmaker – and has been a stay-at-home parent with our high needs child for the past 4 years. So most of my writing day happens in my head. I live in there – as poets tend to do anyway – but I live in there, and every once in a while I write a word or two down, sometimes whole sentences on my Notes App - that I my later get to it - and remember the essence that wanted to be a poem. Poems ask to be poems. And sometimes we ignore the ask. Truthfully, when I go back to my notes on a free weekend or a weeknight after the kids are in bed, I realize that my notes have barely captured that initial spark – the poem that wanted to be. And then at that point, I have to close my eyes and think hard to go back to that place. It’s torture. Where did that word come from? Why did I write it down? Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

One time I wrote a poem on the way home from work. On the streetcar.  About a year ago I was inspired by William Carlos Williams and further fuelled by Jim Jarmusch’s film, Paterson. Writing days can happen in hospital emergency rooms and advertising meetings and streetcars and cafes and backyard decks. Poets are resilient and industrious.  Or is that the poem itself?

On the rare days that I carve out and reserve as ‘a writing day ‘ – I wake up late.

Maybe 9AM. I dress in something beautiful. Always. Walk to my café, chat with neighbours. Eavesdrop on patron conversations. Align their words with the colours of that day and make my way back home.

10AM. A sense of anxiety takes hold. What can I write that hasn’t been written better before? I’m not deserving. I should probably read the words of accomplished writers first. At this point I usually take a moment to pay tribute to my regrets. Why did I get a science degree instead of a fine arts degree? Maybe I should light a candle.

1PM. Okay, yes – So many good writers. Not enough time to read them all. By this time, I have read at least 2 or so books of poetry and posted jolts of inspiration on my various social media accounts. Changing the world one poem at a time? That’s my current motto. Should I have ice-cream for lunch? Yes. Should I have a bath? Yes.

2PM. I open my laptop and open my Notes App and begin. My poems are mad for having been kept in and they spill out. I write in one go, editing nothing until the majority of the words are in front of me. I do this for about 3 hours and usually 3 poems at a time.

5PM. Should I order dinner? Yes. This is my writing day and I will not use it cooking.

7PM. I binge watch a random show – one that my husband wouldn’t be into anyway, so…

10PM. I revisit the poems and realize they’re not bad. They’re okay. I edit ferociously and with little sentimentality. I wish I knew some actual editors. I read the poems out loud over and over until they sound right – to me. It turns out I love deleting whole sentences. I press save and go back to binging my show.

This kind of day only presents itself to me (if I plead for it), about 5 times a year. And someday I hope to have more Writing Days, but if it doesn’t happen, I’ll be okay with that too. Advertising is closer to poetry than you might believe. Mad Men. Mad Poets.

My first three poems ever published can now be read on More, forthcoming. 

Nagmeh Phelan resides in Toronto with her family. Her work has appeared in Room and Queen Mob’s Teahouse. Find her @somesomersaults.

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