Welcome to the Tree Phase
I laugh about my fish phase all the time. It came from a personal reading of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening and grew into a personal call to life. I found that most of my earthly experiences correlated closely with swimming and water movement. Of course it didn’t hurt that I was training for a black belt at the time so I was swimming laps everyday to keep in shape. I think poetry often echos out mindsets, but also the things we find valuable. The fish phase is something nearly comical in the edits I do here, because so many poems fall into that category and often I was just leaning on ideas and tropes I had established in my own mind.
Though I chuckle, it is not necessarily something to be scoffed at. Having phases in your work establishes your art arch. Like Picaso and his colored phases, there is a separation and a growth there, distinguishing freshness from sage. We are to cherish our phases, but not be limited by them. Sometimes fall back on the fish, but it is more with respect than as a fall back.
This poem marks the beginning of a second phase, the tree phase. The tree in this poem appears in half a dozen other poems and is a tree that I cherished beyond all others. It was a beacon of hope in an otherwise dark time and held together friendships and love with a grace I will never understand. It was the only tree I could climb on the quad at JMU and it made its way into my senior pictures.
But the tree is a myth of course. As time passes, the tree like the fish will fall into metaphor. For this phase, I can already see a nostalgia taking form. A sense of open longing for a past that maybe never was; pastoral. I remember the tree as I do my time in undergrad, with great respect, but also with a sense of wonder. It was the tree that grew and changed, fell into seasons, lost its leaves and grew them again. Not I. And when I look back at the tree I can see that I too took the same path, even though to the naked eye it was less obvious.
Look out for the tree in my work, the more mature fish, the bird and the cup of coffee. These are the signals of a better poet. Some write and have poems to show, others write and have edits to show, and those of us who have been working particularly hard have our phases to show for it. Keep an eye out for your own.
There is nothing wrong with a phase. Like its own little chapter in your work, it will be come relevant with that birds’ eye view we talk about all the time. Keep a look out for the ways that you change the your own personal symbols and how your metaphor develops as you do. For me the fish was a symbol of shedding the downy bird of youth and naivety. The fish was a harder, scalier truth that we grow as we meet loss. The tree, a cyclical figure demonstrates a nostalgia that has no bounds but makes us sturdy and strong in our roots. It is the roots of the tree, after all, that matter the most. Phases are like photographs, cherish them, develop them, guard them, share them.