In a perfect world, every poem I write would be amazing and worthy of being published. The world is not perfect, and very few of my poems are amazing. In fact, for every one, good poem I write, I probably write between seven and ten duds.
I find that reality discouraging at times. The perfectionist in me suggests I quit writing poetry altogether. It makes me doubt myself and my writing abilities. It queries why I choose to pursue an art that is fraught with failure.
Another part of me argues against that mentality. It argues that my life would be incomplete without poetry. It suggests that poetry is a way for me to confront and overcome my perfectionist tendencies. It encourages me not to listen to the part of me that demands flawlessness. It tells me that failures – and the willingness to fail – are necessary to success.
That part of me may resound in my head, but I still am tempted to hide my failed poems. If I were to hide my failures, I wouldn’t have to feel nauseated when I review the poems I’ve written. I wouldn’t be crestfallen when I discover that most of my poems are terrible, i.e., sentimental and clichéd. I wouldn’t want to destroy them in a bonfire.
I don’t destroy them because I need those failed poems. I need to know what doesn’t work. I need to learn how to navigate the precipice of authentic emotion and sentimentality. I need to see and remember how each failed poem eventually leads to a successful one.