Sunday, October 21, 2007

How it is to write a poem.

Prompted by this and Rob’s suggestion at PFFA and here, I promptly (heh) began thinking about this. How does it feel?

Well it starts with a prompt. Not unlike this post. The prompt can be absolutely any thing: learning that Fibonacci numbers can be used syllabically (just last night in fact), a juxtaposition of a natural or unnatural object, a smile, disaster. I really like the juxtapositioning because they allow so much. Metaphor sneaks in through this door. Metaphor is the sneaky one who tags along if you are lucky. Absolutely anything can prompt. But this is not the poem. It might want to be a poem, but it is not. This is confident, and rising, and sure that it should be. That confidence isn’t a poem either. But the prompt is the fire behind the poem. It is what you hope your poem will be, or at least strive toward at some point in its future. This is an important step, because otherwise you get pedantic wishywashiness. You get the crumpled pages or the overuse (or proper use) of the delete button.

After this plop of whatever the fire/flow/dare I say inspiration is, the feelings range from a sickly like vomiting, to a path as smooth as silk. Mostly this feeling is the feeling of the prompt. Good prompts that are happy joyful, feel that. Others, that hurt, but still demand to be, well they are harder.

The showcase of words is the layer through which this prompt speaks. The bigger your personal internal dictionary, the better the choices. This begins the terror though. At this point it is picking the flowers, or stitching the quilt is the hard part, or dumping handfuls of sand. The design of the thing. The prompt sometimes offers suggestions about this bit, but not always. As the galley master, you get to order them around. But sometimes they don’t listen. So in that the work is hard. I find listening to the words works well. That and rhymezone.com because my memory is not what it used to be.

At some point, there may be more sparks from the prompt that help me. The “Yes!!” moments that really make me feel it is working. Or there may be silence. It is an extremely interactive process between the prompt, and me and the words and the ideas. I do feel like it is sharing. This is when it works well, feeding off of the prompt.

Or it can hurt. It can be frustrating, like a two year old that shouts no for no discernible reason. This frustration often leads to the tossing aside of the poem. A timeout if you will, to continue the toddler metaphor.

The time away from the poem allows us both to breathe.

When I come back to the poem, I am gathered, so I can see where the fire may not have been more than wishful thinking. Or it can show me that the fire really was burning strong for a good reason. At some point here, it might be a poem. This is where it decides to be. And then, when I have the energy, and the wherewithal, I can work some more and it becomes a poem. The latter parts are work. Nothing short of that. It is the hard part, but ultimately the most fulfilling part. The energy of the prompt still needs to be there, it has to still be contained in the poem. I think if the energy is gone, the poem should be scrapped. The poem has to speak the energy or else it isn’t. When it can do this, the poem makes me feel somewhat successful. If the energy is gone, then I think of it as a learning opportunity that I was offered, and took.

There is no losing in this usually. That is the lucky part. I am lucky to feel this, and occasionally be able to do this. In the end is gratitude for having had the experience. Or annoyance that I could not have done better.

Now letting the toddler out of the house is a whole other sensation. I am still learning about that one.

2 comments:

  1. This is so helpful (and lyrically so). I never get past the prompt. Fear or laziness, or maybe just bad ideas ...

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  2. I often forget the prompt. Heh, need to write it immediately, or else, whatever it may be is gone. Somehow I doubt it is bad ideas for you. Fear is my big one. As a friend of mine describes art, crap or not crap. Too often I file mine under the latter.

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