Home » Poetry » Day 100 – Strength of the Heart

Day 100 – Strength of the Heart

For those that care to take inventory
of our inner stock,
that expanse of intangible stuff
which slowly moves the cogs
and tells the sleigh team where to go,
we must resign a little our calculations
to estimation, must accept a gut-guess,
for how do we measure strength of the heart?

In tears not shed, or less in number, less wet,
more secretly wept, less noticed, less kept-
do we measure in hurts not felt?

Or do we compare what we’re now able to bear
to our grief-dealing past and our struggles there
and take the difference between the two?

No, we cannot measure the winds of change,
though we feel that they are there;
our trust must be in a vague journey,
a destination we may never reach,
a harbor we won’t realize
’til we get there.


28 thoughts on “Day 100 – Strength of the Heart

  1. I wanted to tell you, because I think it only fair, but I imagine something must be going on in your life or else you are very busy, but the poets many days ago I encountered has slowly slipped away and left in its place a writing that, where it was once exciting, full of insight and artfully fashioned, now strikes me each successive day as mundane and bordering on the small, with overused imagery and a triteness of thought. It is almost has if you realize you have a deadlinje and not having written anything as yet simply put thoughts down. I will continue to follow you because I think you have, ‘talent’–a poor word, at least you have shown you do. I wanted to be up front with you because I know so many people would never think of saying such a thing to a writer, and ordinarilly I woulkd not interfere except I did enjoy so much your past commitment to writing well wrought poems. At the risk of insulting you, have you simply let your ego get the best of you for a time. I know what that is like. It kills talent. You are only as good as your last poem. Please take this in the spirit it was meant. Best>KB

    • Wow – that was a different (but a bit refreshing) comment.

      K. A. Brace, I agree with you that the work must supersede the ego and a good amount of constructive criticism goes a long way. However, I’ve just begun following this blog. I’m now looking forward to reading her previous works based on your observations.

      Charlotte, writing is difficult and I admire your desire to push yourself – you’ve essentially challenged yourself to writing a poem a day without the benefits of working with an editor or the luxury of time for multiple revisions before making it public.

      That requires a very thick skin and a lot mental stamina so you’ve got moxy, girl.

      • But it doesn’t necessarilly make for good poetry. At least not the kind she was writing. I would also like to ask you please keep out of this. My comment was for Charlotte and none of your business.>KB

      • Thick skin is right, phew! If I were one of those easily-offended types I’d be raging hardcore right now, but I know how to value criticism from my peers, even if it is a little difficult to swallow.
        I will defend myself a bit but only to a certain extent; I think it’s important to remember the purpose of the project I started: to improve my stamina and skill through practice. I do NOT in any way claim to be showcasing earth-shattering work day after day, or ever. But you are correct in your assertion that given the choice between skipping a day and failing the project or posting something I know is not my best work due to lack of time to smooth it out, I will always choose the latter. And I’m never ashamed of what I post because I take each piece for what it is: an exercise.
        And yes, there are issues in my personal life that I’m working through, as are we all. Sometimes I make my deadline by the skin of my teeth- my full-time job is a demanding one. (Fun fact: I’m the school librarian, but I also teach Spanish, tutor, and do afterschool care.) And at 24 I am still quite young and am still learning/writing about things that may seem mundane and trite to others. Also, as any writer should know, it is reasonable to expect lulls of writer’s block and lack of inspiration, but the important part is to keep writing through it, as I am committed to doing.
        I am not pleased to have disappointed anyone, but in the same respect it has never been my aim to please everyone. If you feel you have been cheated by a recent decline in quality of my poetry, I should not expect you to continue reading. Life is too short to waste time reading poetry you don’t get anything out of.
        In any case, thank you for your comments. They are always appreciated.

      • The only reason I said something was because of hat declkaration you made earlier on. Though I hjad issues with it I thought it a bold stand to take and admired it. But there was a substance to your work that was different, unique. I said what I said because no one will say what they think here usually, and usually I don’t when it comes to so-so writers. But when I first came upon you by accident I was excited by your sense of poetry and the dynamics you created. I waited a long time before I made mention of it because I thought it was a fluke–a writer can’t always be on the money, but you seemed to be selling yourself short, taking the easy road. For one who wants what you declared you wanted , which I am completely in agreement, I have similar goals, you seem to be taling the easy lineas if you thought that was enough. It is never enough. Of course what you are writing now will no doubt get you many more followers because it is easy. But they will always love everythging you do, worship your words. Rather to have some one dislike most of whjat you write and have them tell one at some point you have written poetry. If it is an art form to you treat it as such and not a journal of your mundane feelings. If it is not then continue what you are doing and be mediocre but well liked. >KB

      • I appreciate your taking the time to offer criticism, but from my perspective it is vague and unhelpful. You have merely told me that my older work was better and my new work seems lazy, without going into any specifics of what that means. I’m all about taking criticism to the gut in order to improve, but there is very little I can get out of your advice except to somehow do better. I assure you my writing is not the product of laziness; I think perhaps you find my change in subject matter less than appealing, but as I’ve explained, I am writing the things that matter to me in my young life.
        Your last two sentences, however insulting I could choose to take them, have been pinned to my wall of quotes as a reminder of the kind of well-meaning but ultimately misguided criticism that every writer must encounter. I realize that you have very little perspective of my life, but as a young girl who devotes quite a fair portion of her life to practicing the art of poetry, I rather think that I am taking it seriously, and not treating it as “a journal of my mundane feelings.” To ridicule someone whose aim has always been to improve through practice is, in my opinion, in poor taste, especially if you have no real advice to give.

      • It will always ring true for me because I wrote it and I meant every word. I refuse to believe that great poets are made from reading everybody else’s work, doing what everybody else is doing, and taking everybody else’s criticism when it goes against their own feelings. If you want to sit behind your keyboard and decree that I will never be a great poet, that’s fine, but I’ll still keep up with my practice to get there.
        As I’ve said before, I do want to be published, but that is not my ultimate goal. The definition of a “great” writer is relative and intrinsic; it is not measured by how many sycophantic fans you can get to buy your book. As long as I am pleased by my work and my continued growth, I will continue to share it. You may choose to read it or not.

      • You have obviously missed my point in all this. It is because I think you are a good writer that I began this in the first place. Do what you want and be happy.

      • To you, sir, I would like to extend my thanks for your criticism. It was extremely hard to swallow and I am not one to take that as merely an affront to my pride without first considering why it bothered me. It surprised me because I little expected that anyone would take me to task for not putting forth my best effort at all times, but to a degree you were right. I hardly noticed myself sinking into complacency (though some of it does have to do with life obligations taking precedence,) and not many people would have had the guts to tell me so bluntly. I worked at a Hallmark store for 3 years, so trust me when I say I know the fluff of which you speak and I know that I don’t want to produce it.
        I do want to become a better writer and poet, as opposed to just a good blogger. And like any good poet should know, often the truth is the hardest thing to accept.

      • Thank you Charlotte. I only said what I did because you are an outstanding writer which is why I began following you. I apologize if I caused you angst. I am not very good at cloaking my feeling–in fact I am not good with people in general. I will leave it at that and accept for following you will not bother you again. Yours sincerely, KB

  2. fuck the criticism girl. who are you writing for or competing with? if we are not writing first and foremost for ourselves as a way of processing life, then why write at all. if this came from your heart, then this is what counts. keep on truckin’. this is good.

    • I’m glad you said that, because a way of processing life is exactly what I view it as. It’s how I get through my days, and perhaps it’ll help someone else with theirs, too. Thanks for reading, I’m happy that you enjoy them 🙂

      • i’m working my way through them. but my first thought was, who the hell is this harsh critic? and my second, that his snobbery matched his gravatar image. keep it up!!!

      • well, do check out my latest post, which addresses you most sternly (smiley face – as i don’t know which key to press to give you an actual one)

    • Agood poet writes for their readers and against himself. Poetry is not something you bring out to use to spill yoiur ghuts out. Learn what you are talking about before you give people encouragement.

      • well now, who are you quoting here? yourself? which would make the above statement and your criticism of charlotte’s work a matter of personal opinion, no more or less valid than her opinion or mine. first, i wonder when charlotte embarked on this project if she sought you out to be her critic of choice – her personal mentor that would keep her on the straight-and-narrow of poetry as you see poetry? but based on your attack of her work, coupled with your compelling reply to me, i would surmise she had not, and you are simply a meddler who desires to inflict discomfort under the guise of artistic expertise. hence, you like an argument, and that is what your are really looking for. secondly, your statement “a good poet writes for their readers and against himself” is every bit as valuable as, oh, what shall we compare it to? bullshit! no, my friend, the poet has nothing to write or say if there is not some level of personal experience or passion involved. was that charlotte’s best poem? doubtful. was it a good poem? debatable. was it drawn from a reality she knows or understand? i think so. and to which reader do you refer? i would say charlotte writes to readers who can find some resonance of experience, be it lived, imagined, or simply felt. obviously, you did not find anything of the sort, but to reduce her work to the equivalent of a Hallmark Card, as you have is unworthy, but apparently not beneath your personal dignity. your statements are broad-brush strokes that only serve to define poetry in your terms. that is fine for you, though i hope charlotte finds it as laughable as i do. poetry is an art form, and yet i know of no art form that is defined in such strict terms. you don’t like her writing – fine, don’t read. but do not mistake that your initial criticism was constructive or in anyway helpful. i hope charlotte has the metaphorical balls to continue writing what she knows and feels, and can rest assured that many of her readers follow her because the connect, not because they want to splash their pseudo-superior criticism on her for her own good. alas, poor Rumi – if only he would’ve had a blog and you at his fingertips, he might have bee a successful poet. have a nice day.

  3. I’ve been following your writing for a while now, but am reluctant to post unless I absolutely cannot live with not posting. That day has now come, and it almost came recently, but more on that in a bit.

    I’ll try not to tangle with KB since s/he somewhat politely asked to keep his/her dialogue with you (although, buddy, you make a comment in public, it’s public business, whatever your desires for the contrary), but to add another perspective to the readership response, I find myself at odds with or on tangential sides of many of his/her statements, and would suggest that illustrating points to support his/her claims would likely be more useful than leaving them flat.

    I don’t know how long you’ve been writing, but as someone who’s fifteen years along the path of poetry, I know well the creative muscle and skill those early years of fevered inspiration and attempts at discipline built—I was writing 10+ poems per day at one point, and have penned well over ten-thousand to date (only a few hundred of which would I still stand by)—and I’d say you’re right on track with 1) your aim, 2) your apparent understanding of what devotion to the art requires, and 3) your practice.

    Hell, I was even tempted to create a blog and join you (and will, if you ever reach a point in the year where you need that sort of encouragement).

    Reading widely across times and cultures, and deeply within areas of interest, and then writing, writing, writing, will almost assuredly produce results. Like you said, it’s exercise, and sometimes you punch a hole in the sky during that exercise, and sometimes you’re just readying the elements for that punch to happen. The preparation is just as important as the moments when you tap the vein, and much more labor-intensive and time-consuming. I don’t know how you approach the craft either, but one way that helped me was seeing it as an injunction to continually push myself into better writing and more attentive living—a form of ceaseless self-development—which led to more careful and caring living as a result. A lot of writing is about the writer, but there’s also a responsibility to the reader to consider and take up, if the writer is willing. And I don’t mean just to please the reader, but to challenge the reader to read and think and live better in turn.

    All that wallowing aside, what I thought to myself the other day while I was reading I Could Lose a Leg and other poems before it and after is “ah, now she’s getting down to some of the knees-in-the-dirt, mind-and-soul-wrenching work, shedding some of the artifice,” and what I meant by that is a perceived probing of self and belief and a willingness to be more honest and vulnerable, a stage which, in my opinion, can take a while to reach. A couple examples:

    “There is also a chance for remarkable things,
    beyond recognition, yet.
    And why should I not believe that?

    It is said that dreams are uncertain,
    not to be held in a fist,
    but what is there to hang my coat on in this world
    if not the infinite chances, unknown?”

    “the bravest of us are those who surrender to
    what we’ve always been.

    Whether hiding or stifled or long unknown,
    there are seeds taken hold far within,
    and we’ve no job but to resist
    uprooting what becomes.”

    which shreds all kinds of pretty thinking, and while the phrasing of that last line doesn’t work for me, what those stanzas are getting at does.

    These changes could all be in my head of course, and I still put on filters and personalities to write through all the time, so I’m not arguing against that type of writing, but nevertheless I felt a more touching, valuable return on my time, and I also thought I sensed advances in rhythm and lyricism, a tightening of line and strength of statement (which you never lacked) that makes one read something like this:

    “And though we be susceptible to the river’s pull
    we will not be drowned alive.”

    and say damn.

    But let me dispel any notion that I love all your writing or that you’ve created one of those spineless fans KB spoke of. To be frank, I think most of your lines are solid, which is more than I can say for a lot of contemporary books I read, but do most of your poems grab me and make me linger with them, or even more, lodge something of themselves in me to be carried into my day? No.

    But some do, and a line here and there will make me savor it, repeat it in the mind with an admirable envy, and they’re doing that more often of late. And while I think you occasionally get silly (a good thing! but needs to be finely honed for its reward to transfer to the reader), and occasionally I wonder where the hell that came from, I don’t recall ever saying God, give me back that minute of my life, and in a world with so many perceptual inputs vying for my time, that’s saying a lot.

    In other words, keep up the hard work. I for one am seeing improvement already. And unless you end up being a poet who develops a singular voice that threads through all your poems (and even then), it’s very, very unlikely a reader is going to be enamored of them time and time again.

    And I know I’m probably saying a lot of things you already know or feel, so cast that aside, but I do hope some small bit of it is useful to you.

    • Tykal,
      It is extremely refreshing to hear this from you- know that it has comforted me at a time of low spirits and confusion. Your point about more attentive living really hits home with me. If there’s anything I’ve gained in this exercise besides penning a hundred poems, it’s that I’ve learned a great deal about myself in the process. I’ve long struggled with the notion that I may not have much to give yet in terms of poetic substance because of my age and inexperience in the world. Who wants to hear a 24 year old wax poetically about things she doesn’t fully comprehend? But outside the world of this blog, the everyday practice of soul-searching in order to write just one poem a day has been instrumental in making myself a more open, introspective, and observant person, as well as reducing anxiety and improving motivation.
      I truly appreciate your using examples to support what you’re saying- it’s very difficult for me to comprehend what someone means when saying “your older stuff was better, but now you’re getting off the mark.” My intent has never been to earn legions of mindless fans, nor to be mediocre. But a writer must be true to herself, and though quite often I wish I had more time to edit/fix up my poems, I am pleased with them for what they are: the unpolished results of the day. Perhaps my next project will be one in which I can take more time to present my very best work, but for now I hope that readers will not be too disappointed in my daily practice.
      Thank you again for your constructive feedback and encouragement, it means a lot to me 🙂

  4. I am glad to see you have a thick skin, because I don’t.

    I will not call myself a critical reader in any literary genre. Those that might have more “experience/background/learning/vocabulary/whatever” might be able to make reasonable comment in this manner.

    So please just accept my humble thanks for your “Strength of the Heart”

  5. again my dear, let me say, “fuck the criticism and the critics!” write from and for yourself, and to those of us who can relate.

  6. So, Charlotte! I know everyone has kind of put their opinions out there and I just wanted to say a couple things.

    Not to be a writing snob or anything, I barely even know proper grammar myself, but if you look at the way KB writes… Do you honestly think anything he/she says is going to be worthy of your time?

    Constructive criticism is supposed to help people learn. It’s not an avenue for whining and displeasure on the part of the “critic.”

    You’re a fabulous writer. Not everyone will like what you write and that’s okay!

    But what’s not okay are the people who criticize only with the intent to put down someone else. And yeah, maybe everything I said was an extremely passive aggressive (although actually rather direct) comment to KB, but I hope you stay encouraged to keep writing and don’t let snobs who can’t even spell words correctly get you down.

    I’ll be reading! 😀

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement, Joe! The criticism was a little harsh but I am not so clueless as to not see that there was some merit to what he said, and I try to be the kind of person who can learn from every situation, so in that regard I am glad for his comments. But I’m also very grateful for those people such as yourself who’ve been prompted to offer support, and who appreciate the effort behind my madness.
      It’s going to take a whole lot more than one harsh critic to ever get me to stop writing!

  7. For what it’s worth, I second Ettemeyer’s original comment. To write a poem every day, for the world’s approval or whipping, as the case may be, is daunting to say the least. (Thank you, Mr. Emerson, whom I’m paraphrasing: “For nonconformity, the world whips you with its displeasure.”) I wouldn’t have either the time or temerity to do it; nonetheless, I commend Charlotte for doing so, as writing is ultimately a process, not a single point on a map. Admittedly, as a newbie to following this blog, I don’t (yet) know any backstory here, but I disagree with K.A. Brace’s assertion that: “You are only as good as your last poem.” I think we’re probably “in the know” here insofar as many of us being inveterate bibliophiles, ergo, we tend to have longer memory-spans for what we read than the average person. Can I quote, verbatim, my favorite poems? Well, no, but I believe that’s because they are mostly quite long. However, I can throw out some lines if need be. So, what I’m getting at is that I think many readers, especially those with a professed interest in literature, can rise to the challenge–and even crave it–of ever-slippery(-er) prose and poetry. Thus, while perhaps not having an elephantine memory, we are, I think, sophisticated enough to take the long view of a favorite writer’s oeuvre, be she a “professional” (malleable though that denotation is today!) or a rank amateur. I doubt Stevens hung his lawyer’s or poet’s hat on “…Blue Guitar,” whether it changed things as they are or not (I presume that you’d probably agree, K.A. Brace, that Wilde’s genius is not declaratively fixed upon the nail of the blindingly good “Earnest” or “Dorian”). My last piece of writing does not define me as a writer, I assert, nor does Ms. Cuevas’ daily post stand as a static symbol of her talent or ambition, mindset or mood. I believe the writer’s sense of self is at least as important as others’ impressions, and the path from which we proceed. As to whether one writes for the reader or him/herself is a matter for another day and can really only be answered by each writer. And so, I will shortly cease my blathering, but I only wanted to assert one last thing, cadged from a poet of a different sort, that I think speaks to any adversity or challenge we face in life, self-imposed or not: “It’s only at the turning point/[that] you find out how you fight.” If we never test ourselves, in writing or in life, can we really know where the boundaries or breaking points lie? My best to you all, writers and bibliophiles alike . . . I’m writing this with a cranky kid nearby, so my apologies if it’s a bit scattered!

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