“I can’t do it” are words that I rarely utter these days. I don’t mean that because I am particularly talented in everything that I turn my hand to. Nor is it that I have a preternatural determination which ensures that nothing is beyond me.
No. The reason why I am almost never faced with things that I can’t do is because as I grow older I find that I never put myself that far from my comfort zones. Most of the things that occupy my time form a variation on a theme of things that I discovered I can do moderately well earlier in my life. I never excelled at team sports so I don’t bother with them. I wasn’t brilliant at maths so rather than challenge myself by understanding concepts that my children are struggling with, I bat them straight on to my husband.
But sometimes things come along that you just can’t ignore. A bete noir raises its head and it must be vanquished. In these situations “I can’t do it” just fails to cut the mustard.
So is it with me and poems. As part of my module this year I have to write forty lines of poetry. I have to. If I don’t I will fail. I have no option. But I simply can’t do it.
Well, when I say I can’t it’s all a question of degree. Of course I can produce forty lines of words, either with rhymes or without. I can ape the metre that I have read elsewhere. I’m sure I could even put a sonnet together if my life depended on it. What I mean is that I can’t create something that speaks to me. Nothing that I have written thus far makes me feel proud and in my book if you are not proud of what you have achieved then you haven’t tried hard enough to achieve it.
I have always struggled with poetry. I have been forced to study it twice in my course already so I know a bit. I’ve read The Ode Less Travelled! I can spot spondees and trochees and I know about iambic pentameter but it all leaves me cold. So when it comes to writing my own I am left with a similar empty feeling. I am simply going through the motions and it shows. But I have to get beyond this. I have just over three weeks to find some kind of inner soul and allow it to leak on to a page.
All of a sudden I have far more sympathy with my children. I had forgotten what it feels like to be defeated by something; how, when no matter how hard you try, it just doesn’t sink in. I have trotted out glib responses to them when they encounter something challenging for the very first time. “Of course you can!” I say as I continue with the washing up. “There’s no such word as ‘can’t. You’re just not trying hard enough.”
Well I’m trying really hard and it’s not working. And I don’t like it!