OCD Crow was just reading an old review of Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems by Philip Larkin (1982), and came across his statement that Plath “seems to have written compulsively (her annual output between 1956 to her death in 1963 averaged thirty-two poems).” Now, as OCD Crow writes every day, she has an annual output of many more poems than this, up to 150 or so per year, on top of essays, articles, stories and other wordings. This level of productivity, by the way, is nothing compared to the output of a novelist like Joyce Carol Oates who has written and published fifty novels plus collections of short fiction, non-fiction and poetry over the past forty years. However, the Crow has still often been called “prolific.”
Interestingly, while this adjective can be proffered under the guise of a compliment (and the bearer may indeed mean it to be so), more commonly, there lurks behind such an epithet the stench of an odd envy, one borne of a variety of voices prevalent in the Can Lit scene, from “she musn’t be any good if she writes that much,” to “no one needs anyone to produce that much text; control yourself for gawdsakes; get a teaching job” to “perhaps this spew is indicative of a mental illness.” Some writers go so far as to presume that if a poet (in particular) only publishes every ten years that must mean the book is likely to be superior, that they were writing slowly and saving their very best work for this eventual publication, when in actuality they may simply have been too busy doing other things or perhaps they compose very slowly. Others, such as Robyn Sarah, in her collection Little Eurekas (2007), have even become prescriptive, stating that poets should only publish every ten years to limit the glut in the industry and increase quality over quantity as though the former can never exist in the latter.
OCD Crow has published quite a few books over the past ten years and has stood behind every one in terms of editing, assisting with design, marketing and touring each title. Hoping in this way that the work will find a further-reaching value and that the sacrifice of trees will be (somehow) justified. Yet, she doesn’t plan to stop being prolific. Crow feels that being prolific is simply another gift given to certain artists. And just because she writes every day, it doesn’t mean many of these 150 poems and other pieces a year see publication. Many are discarded, transformed into artistic compost. Whole manuscripts are cast away or, over time, are combined with other visions to make one book instead of several. The most important thing is not to repeat oneself, become safe. Then, in plenty, there is a kind of hope. Occasionally one is overwhelmed. At times, reassured. Regardless, this is what happens when you make writing your life.
OCD Crow keeps wondering why Canadian poets are made uneasy by the prolific writer.
Just look at the work, she says.