Friday, July 8, 2011

I Read A Book About Something And Now I Don't Want To Write About It Anymore

As I mentioned in my last post, I just finished reading a book about Pitcairn Island, in hopes it would help me with a poem project. I initially started writing poems about Pitcairn in 2009 in Carmen Gimenez Smith's poetry and nonfiction form and technique class, but then thesis work set in and I kind of forgot about the project. I was cleaning out my harddrive one day a few months ago and looked at the few poems I had again, liked them, had my curiosity rekindled.

Pitcairn is an island about halfway between New Zealand and Chile, aka 3000 miles from anywhere. You can only get there by longboat; it's too rocky for planes to land there, and the harbor is so shallow that ships have to dock a few miles out. Pitcairn was settled in the 1780s by the mutineers of the Bounty and a few Tahitians, mainly women ("wives" of the mutineers) but a few men as well. In the mid-2000s, the island gained international attention when it experienced a sex scandal; six Pitcairn men (a third of the male population) went on trial for the regular sexual abuses of minors. Islanders basically insisted that early sexual activity was a normal practice on Pitcairn, due to isolation and Polynesian influence. The British government disagreed and the trial went on, several men were convicted and served time in the island jail, which the convicted men built themselves. 

In my first flush of interest in Pitcairn, I did a ton of research about it...mainly Googling intensely and reading as many articles and pieces of information as I could (there's a lot...Vanity Fair, National Geographic, NPR, the island's own strange website). Once I decided to continue the project, I got really interested again and turned out a few poems. And then I read the book about it, which was good, and told me way more about the day-to-day life of the island and what the people do and how they do it and why they do it.

But now I can't write any more poems about Pitcairn. I keep opening the file, but then I'm just like blah ew this is weird. Why? Maybe doing the research, reading the whole book, entering into a full narrative of the island, killed my interest. I can't create my own narrative now. I don't know. I can't get any images out or think of any new way to look at it, the sex, the rocks, the ocean, the sky, the whole idea of Pitcairn I was working with in my head before.

I thought that doing research usually strengthened a creative project, especially something like this, which is grounded in both a historical and a modern reality. But maybe not. Generally, I don't do a lot of research for my poetry, haven't undertaken many projects that call for it, really. Fiction writers, I  imagine, do more research than poets and are probably held to higher standard of capturing reality/fact than poets (right? I don't know. Tell me I'm wrong. That's actually probably a tangent, nevermind).

But basically, I'm mad now. I thought that knowing more about Pitcairn would spark me to write more, maybe get this series of poems into a chapbook or something, but the complete opposite happened. I guess I'll give it more time and see if I become interested again, out of the headspace of someone else's Pitcairn and away from what all of the reading and reading and facts told me.

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