When I lived in South Portland, ME, my daily trip to work involved crossing the mile-long Casco Bay Bridge, hoping that no oil tanker was steaming into the mouth of the Fore River, needing the drawbridge to open. The roadway on said bridge had no provision for escape and backtracking when this happened. Drivers sat while the tanker and tug passed under the bridge. And while we waited, we faced the bright sunlight reflected from windows on the opposite side of the water. It was a stunning sight, almost worth the wait.
I tried then to write about this experience and came up with a mediocre poem that I eventually retired to the revisions pile. I glanced at it from time to time but nothing much changed in my mind. Until last week. At which time I realized that I was forcing meaning that was not inherent in the event or necessary to the poem. Why did a real change come about five or six years later? I cannot fully explain it. Something about that view stayed fresh, and when I focused my energy and imagination on the truth of it, there was the poem on the page. Which is a long example of the value of keeping a folder of “failed” poems and considering why they failed. Almost always there is a glimmer of gold in that effort, and it’s an adventure like that of the man in Australia who recently found a huge chunk of pure gold. He had a better metal detector. Experience is the writer’s precious metal detector. Truth and honest intention help.