Chuck Tripi has lived a life of poetry and study since a medical catastrophe suddenly ended his flying career in 1998. After his poem "Crack-Up" was published in HFR's 47th issue, he struck up a correspondence with Managing Editor Beth Staples. His epistolary perspective on writing and the writing life has been so valuable to Beth, she wanted to share some of his notes here. He writes from Sussex County. See all of Chuck's letters here.
I had a chance while healing at the dawn of the mind-body era to sit with an eminent psychiatrist for several sessions at a deep discount. His greeting was lovely—ah, he said, you have finally come to me.
First you must stretch, and you must buy a book (he garbles the title, he garbles the author). I cannot give it to you; you must get it for yourself.
I couldn’t understand a word through his heavy accent in the unfamiliar setting and had to ask several times that he repeat himself, until he practically screamed at me, Stretching, by Bob Anderson, go buy that book now, learn how to stretch.
In my room at the Hyatt at the DFW airport, I was listening to some classical music on the radio, doing my brand-new stretching routine and, I swear to God, I started having visions. I couldn’t wait to tell my new guru!
It means you are out of balance, he practically screamed, go stretch more now!
Isn’t this a way to write well—to stretch, to have a vision, teeter a little, write it down, return to our senses; write it down again?
And vision turns to work, and work turns to drudgery, and everyone gets lost sometimes.
In our last session, for a reason still unplumbed, he gave me a fifty minute monologue on how to get what I want. To say the truth, it seemed a little too goal-oriented for my taste.
When he was through, I made my single utterance—but Doctor, How do I know what I want? He busted a gut, laughing so hard that his eyes disappeared into the wrinkles of his face—Ah hah hah, my friend, you nevah do, you nevah do!
I have received advice that a poem will announce where it wants to go, that even its form will unfold relatively uncoaxed. That is the tricky word of it all, isn’t it—relatively?
I do not want my diary read. Thus, there is a partnership between my poems and me.
I tell them where I want them to go. Sometimes I am right; sometimes they listen.