They wonder what led me to write a book of poems. Perhaps, if they find out what happened to me, they might avoid the same thing happening to them.
Here’s what happened.
First, What Got Writ
I wrote Throw Me A Bone: Poetry For Dogs, 31 poems written purportedly for a canine audience.
It’s available on Amazon — http://poetryfordogs.com — and priced to generate funds for three humane societies. (Writing poetry is not my get-rich-quick scheme, not a pyramid of dogs with you at the bottom. No.)
If you are going to buy 10 or more copies — as a friend has threatened to do for swag bags for a family celebration — let me know. I can offer buy-one-get-another-one-free for 10+ copies.
Now, Then, What Happened
Ever since I was an English major in college, whenever my age has ended in a 0 or 5, I would look at my bookshelves for the book I’d written. Never anything there.
But this year, on the eve of my 60th — or is 75th? — birthday, several forces came together:
- I’ve been dog-friendly for a long time. Ask any dog. Whenever I travel with Adam Harris, my friend and personal Vistage Chair, he notes that I cut and run from any conversation with a human, such as with Adam, to cross the street and greet a dog. (I’ve always been aware that I do that. I thought everyone did it.) Most dogs are glad to see and smell me approaching.
- I’ve faced the best writing teachers. I haven’t been their best student, but I have faced great writing teachers in each decade of my life. It has been an enduring privilege to be trained as a writer.
- Alisa painted a portrait of a dog. It’s on the cover. It’s a watercolor painting of Beckett, the beloved — and, alas, recently deceased — dog of beloved friends, Matt and Acacia. The painting has been sitting beside my desk for a couple months. I think that the presence of art has a way of inspiring the creativity of Artie.
- Margot arrived. The average altitude — and attitude — of my brain through the day is suddenly closer to the floor.
- We moved to Yellow Springs early this year. The village has inspired me with quiet, with nature, with neighbors who seem to be writers, gardeners, potters, farmers, cooks, artists. We aren’t keeping up with Joneses out here. We are trying to keep up with the deer.
- I attended LifeForward, a life transition workshop at the Hudson Institute last month. I learned about life transition, yes, and also walked away with a commitment to applying the principles of rapid prototyping — including, for me, avoiding limitless refinement of my creative work.
- Shut Up & Write!™ Several of us have founded a local chapter of the international writers’ initiative here in Greene County. Writing with writers is propelling my productivity. Look for a chapter in your town or, ever more, consider being an organizer.
- I have been invited to write and give an original essay (not on the subject of my work) to a newly established group in Columbus, The 20/20 Club. My working title is Canine Poetry Slam and, while truly writing poetry for dogs was not my intention, that’s what happened first. (Now I really need to write the essay, due October 7th.)
- I enjoy writing. I’d never been (until now) ambitious or disciplined enough to finish a book. But throughout my life, I’ve written 800 or so posts to you here; thousands of cards and letters (and countless emails); fifty or so poems (before this, commemorating people or events); a play; essays; speeches; skits; lectures; and too many eulogies. I love writing in different forms for a variety of reasons. Today is a beautiful Sunday and I am writing. I envy those who prefer to read. I enjoy others who prefer other discretionary pastimes. When free time arises, I prefer to write.
- I recited (for small rooms of CEOs) two poems every month for seven years: “Never Again Would Birds’ Song Be The Same” by Robert Frost and “The Straightener” by Billy Collins. And I’ve memorized and recited “Relax” by Ellen Bass. And not enough others. Anyway, they have seeped into my view of the world.
- CPM, the Creativity & Personal Mastery class I keep taking, assigned during May that we each identify two recurring, nearly daily, activities — one that appeals, one that does not — and pursue them mindfully, rather than as something to simply finish. I chose one: walking the dog. (I don’t recall whether I chose it as an appealing or unappealing activity. That might have depended on the weather.) Anyway, I found myself attending to the leash and the conversation between the creatures at either end of the leash. I could hear my words. I could fancifully imagine Margot’s words, breaking the rule against anthropomorphism. (If anthropomorphism is a crime, let me be guilty.) During Shut Up & Write, I shut up and wrote down those conversation.
Did This Happen All Of A Sudden?
This belief found its way into the start of “Puppy Love, 2”:
Big things happen all at once
over a long period of time.
That’s how this book came to be. All at once. Over a long period of time. And, for me, it’s a big, heart-swelling thing.
Writing this book has delivered many benefits to me. One is: when I turn my attention away from striving and toward the dog, it isn’t a distraction. It’s research.