Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hard to Surrender by Daniel Ames

One of my favorite quotes is something supposedly attributed to Vince Lombardi. The way I understand it, Lombardi used to bark the following mantra to his players during practice: “The harder we work, the harder it is to surrender!”

According to Packer lore, because Lombardi pushed his players so hard in practice, in games they owned the fourth quarter. When the other team was gasping for breath, weak from fatigue toward the end of the contest, the Packers rolled on, just as strong, if not stronger, than when they began the game.

The harder we work, the harder it is to surrender.

I’ve got entire books of quotes, especially about writing. So why does Lombardi’s quote resonate so strongly for me?

I guess the answer is my first collection of poetry, Feasting at the Table of the Damned.

I had always loved poetry, from an early age. In college, whenever I had free electives, I always took a poetry course. And then, I began writing. Just a poem here or there. Eventually, I started sending them out, and eventually, most of them were published.

But as I began to build a reasonable body of work, I came to a crossroads. Did I really want to continue? As much as I enjoyed seeing my work published, and as much as I appreciated the positive feedback, I wasn’t certain where I was going. I knew I would always write poetry because I loved the process, the challenge of getting across an idea with power, elegance and brevity.

The realization appeared slowly but with the weight of concrete: the next step was a book, and I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I spent more time than I care to admit ceding fear to the doubt nearly every artist (except maybe Norman Mailer) experiences at some point.

And then the crazy Italian from Brooklyn who somehow wound up in Green Bay popped into my head.

The harder we work, the harder it is to surrender.

I had worked too hard, labored too long, sweated too much over my collection of poems to just walk away.

So I wrote the book and sent it out. Eventually Aquarius Press of Detroit offered me a publishing contract.

The book has a lot to do with struggle. The obstacles everyone deals with, like the fight to live, to stay sane, to live life with passion, and the struggle to pass through this world with eyes wide open, hungering for comprehension.

Some of the poems are dark, others light. Some are nostalgic, others rife with anger and bitterness.

And yeah, there is the issue of surrender. It’s my belief that everyone, at some level, has the urge to surrender. To give up. To just throw all the wasted time and effort and years and pain and bullshit all into the toilet and flush it away.

But most of us don’t surrender. Miraculously, we lift our heads and turn an honest face into a wind that we know has the power to literally rip us apart.

That’s why I titled the book the way I did.

The table is set, I hope you enjoy the feast.


Sabrina E. Ogden said...

This is a beautiful post, Daniel. Thank you so much for being a guest on My Friends Call Me Kate and for sharing your book of poetry with us. Love you, my little Twitter pal.

David Cranmer said...

It sounds like a fine collection. Terrific title.

jchrz said...

Oh, Daniel, may I call you Daniel?? lol it is always fun having an author telling us about themselves, how they began there journey, and having the do not surrender attitude. I find myself feeling overwhelmed at times during my daily struggle of life, family and work. After reading your thoughts I think you have made me realized I need to strive a little harder and remember Lombardi’s saying “The harder we work, the harder it is to surrender!” I will and thank you.” These are words to live by.

McDroll said...

Waw! That's so powerful..and so true. I wish yo every success with your book, it's a huge achievement.

Sara said...

Congratulations!! It sounds like an excellent book. I heart poetry :) I am always thrilled with the talent that is in this world...may it never cease to amaze me.