Slump-A-Dump: Rapping my way through a creative block

Writing as everyday spiritual practice was the topic of one of my recent blog posts, but writing mindfully and staying in the present moment is a lot more difficult than it might seem. Since I’ve been feeling creatively blocked lately, I decided to follow my own advice, switch genres and write a poem about my current state of mind.

Simple enough, right? Hardly. My inner critic kicked in big-time. I found myself playing with rhyme and rhythm as a rapper might, but my “umpire” kept telling me I was making a mess of things. No sooner had I come up with the first few lines than I began wondering if the poem would be appropriate for posting on my blog. I could envision myself reading it at the next open mic at the Social Justice Center in Albany, but how would it come across online? Would the constipation imagery turn people off?

Is the word “turd” too vulgar for my readers?

I decided I could care less. I’ll let you be the judge, and I’ll try not to worry what you think (although as always, I welcome your comments). I recommend the following exercise: write a poem, and make it as crass, corny and vulgar as you can. Have fun, and don’t worry about quality. Who knows what makes for good poetry anyway? 

So is this poem an example of everyday spiritual practice? Writing it, I found myself immersed in the moment, and I feel more centered and energized now than before I began, so I believe it qualifies.

Slump-A-Dump Poem

Humpty-dump-dump, I’m sure in a slump.

Got that internal ump telling me I’m no damn good,

saying to give writing up – hell, well, maybe I should,

but that leaves a huge hole where there used to be soul.

***

Hey, I sound like a rapper, with my heart in the crapper,

chasing rhythms and rhymes, trying to get through this time

of gloom and despair – came on me from nowhere,

snaking up through thin air, twining me in its grasp,

this rhetorical asp has its coils round my throat.

Now my umpire gloats as I strangle on words

hard and dry as old turds that refuse to come out.

The frustration’s so painful, I choke back a shout.

***

I blogged about writing as spiritual practice –

sure, that’s what my act is, but the matter of fact is

I feel like a fake, and that critic keeps raking me

over the coals, telling me I’m too old

to go on any longer. Sure, if I were lots younger,

I might join the dance, have a chance to advance

in this crazy charade of a writing career,

refuse to accept that the end’s far too near –

no, that just isn’t so – I’ve got decades to go.

(Yeah, right, if I’m lucky, and relentlessly plucky.)

***

So I sit on my rump in this bitch of a slump,

fingers clawed over keys, hoping for a fresh breeze

blown my way by some muse who might choose

to fill up my sails, lift me out of these doldrums,

stop me going insane from this sludge in my brain.

***

Maybe writing this doggerel will lift all the fog, or I’ll

stay in this slough of despond – but no, I don’t want

to give in to being mopey and dopey. Nope,

I must persevere. Tell that muse, “Hey, I’m here!”

Tell the ump she’s a chump, and soar out of this slump.

9 thoughts on “Slump-A-Dump: Rapping my way through a creative block

  1. I liked it, Julie!! I knew I would before I even started reading the poem. I like your writing. You wrote the key right in your poem: “Maybe writing this doggerel will lift all the fog.” So often expressing the negative, bluesy, down feelings clears the way for the more positive to come through and that is what happened here for you. Keep on writing! You have a gift for it. Betsy

  2. What makes poetry so wonderful is the fact that it involves all of life, every concern, every desire, and every feeling. If something has some great significance to a person’s existence, then it has a great significance in poetry as well.

  3. Julie,
    It might not be Keats or Wordsworth, but your rhyme beats the crap out of any rap lyrics I’ve ever been able to decipher.

    I agree: Who cares what some nameless reader might think? This poem looks like it’s just healthy venting, so you are probably your main audience.

    Bob Sanchez

  4. Just a thought, but when my creative juices are stalled there is always research to do, and I almost always find a little snugget of information that leads to a thought for a chapter or a short story…. I seem to be unusual in that I think of short stories as a snap; a break from writing the long novel. At a recent writer’s conference — Deadly Ink in New Jersey, which I highly recommend because it’s small, friendly but well organized and interesting panels — other writers felt the short was more difficult to write. Well, all I can say is that mine usually get published, snap or not. Marilyn aka: M.E. Kemp, looking forward to her next novel to come out in the Fall, DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER.

  5. Betsy, Hilongos and Bob, thanks for your encouraging comments!

    As for healthy venting, Bob, there’s a question how healthy it is, and when – hey, maybe that’s a good subject for my next blog post!

    Marilyn, I envy your ability to come up with short story subjects – maybe it’s the research that’s the key to finding it a “snap.” I began a short story the other day but found it too depressing to continue – it was venting, but it wasn’t healthy! More about that later.

  6. As promised (or threatened), I finally read this poem at the Social Justice Center in Albany last Thursday night. The audience loved it, even though it may not have come across as totally rap. The applause was super-gratifying.

    Thanks to Dan Wilcox for hosting this long-running monthly series as well as for all his other contributions to the Capital District poetry scene.

  7. I just reread the poem, Julie, and liked it even better this time than the first time I read it. So glad you read it at the Social Justice Center in Albany and got such a supportive, encouraging applause. Way to go, Julie!!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks so much, Betsy! Yes, open mics are definitely therapeutic. One of the best was Poets Speak Loud at Tess’ Lark Tavern, which unfortunately was shut down due to a serious fire a few months ago and may not reopen. There are still other venues, though.

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