Monday, January 15, 2007


Fresh: WOMB, Boxcar Poetry Review.

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Today: tennis, rain, more tennis, more rain, going in to work for three hours (it's a holiday, but we were still providing reference services and I was scheduled on the desk), snow, more tennis.

Also caffeine, and good progress on a grant application.

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Ran across a note I'd written about a then-new poem, back in October 2004:
Scribbled out a poem at lunch today. In a few minutes I'll type it up and see if it's any good. Might not be, but you never know. I've been reading the Warren Wilson craft anthology, Poets Teaching Poets: Self and the World, and oddly enough reading this kind of critical essay sometimes gets me writing. (Which is yet another thing that makes me think I should run off and get an MFA, but whatever.) Anyway I was reading an essay by Marianne Boruch about bee imagery in Plath's poems, and the title "Opening the Hive" struck me for a poem about open-heart surgery. The poem may have gone downhill from there, though. Heh. Anyway, that's three poems in five days -- one Saturday, one Sunday, and one today -- and that makes me happy, even if they're not great.
Which makes me think a couple of things. One, I sure as heck don't always know whether a poem's any good or not until it's had a while to age; this poem ended up in a nice place, so apparently someone thought it was decent (after some revision, of course). Two, I find it interesting to go back and remember where poems came from; perhaps I'll make more of an effort to document this as I go along.

In fact, I think it would be kind of fun to make a practice of keeping "notes on inspiration" in my poetry notebook along with the rough drafts. Or perhaps even make it a separate notebook or journal. Hmmm. Revisiting the original impulse could be helpful (or not...) in revision; also, I think it's good to know what kind of things tend to spark you into writing, so you can make an effort to do those things when you need to get yourself going. I absolutely don't believe in sitting around waiting for inspiration. If caffeine and craft essays trick your particular Muse into dancing, or if it requires putting on the lucky socks, then make time for those things.

Yes, I'm narcissistically fascinated with my own creative process, and we all know what that's called. But I'm fascinated with yours, too. How can you trick your particular Muse? What do you do when you want to put yourself in that writing frame of mind? Do you pour yourself a glass of wine? Burn that "Inspiration" scented aromatherapy candle you found on clearance at Target? Put on some music? Go for a walk? Hire a hundred monkeys and sit them down at a hundred typewriters and hope like hell for Shakespeare? Tell me.


Anonymous said...

Inspiration is a tricky thing. I am usually inspired by other good writing but especially by non-fiction. I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's _High Tide in Tuscon_ and find that (lots of sections on living as a writer) very helpful.

But for me lately there really isn't a time when I sit down and call to the muse. I am so busy with work and now a low-res MFA that all I can do is just hope I have pen and paper when an idea occurs to me (the horror usually when I am driving!!!!).

Jessie Carty

Laura C. said...

I read as much poetry as I have time for (or am hungry for -- which sometimes leads to dry spells) -- and take public transportation. That combo works magic for me. The surest way for me NOT to write a poem is to sit down at a desk. Ack ! (sound of creative process closing off...)

David Vincenti said...

I finally realized my muse thrives on sensory deprivation. My most productive ideation periods are when I eliminate all external noise and let the internal noise take over. In the car with the radio off, sitting quietly with a book closed in my lap, etc. Let the good idea just below the surface break through. Then, of course, get to recording means ASAP; for me, this is a microcassette recorder, later transcribed.

And I'm always fascinated when that emergent idea introduces itself to me - it's great to find out what's on your own mind....

Anonymous said...

Almost anything might get me started writing, though if I'm looking to prime the pump, so to speak, something that seems to work pretty well is walking slowly. (Walking outside is better though doesn't always have to be.)

The key thing here is the slowness of the walk -- roughly the pace of waves splashing up idly at the edge of a lake on a calm day. That seems to connect with one of the basic ground rhythms that tends to run through a lot of my poems.

Reading poetry by other poets also seems to work a lot of the time. Not necessarily any poets in particular -- if it's a poet whose work I generally like, reading their poems may take me to a place my own poems come from.

One other thing that works sometimes is more elusive, and harder to describe. I guess I'd call it getting myself into a psychic (or psychological or emotional) state that is favorable for poems to start taking shape. It's a little like "programming" myself to dream about certain things -- I try to immerse myself in the pervasive mood or feeling or emotional texture that the poem (or dream) seems to be grounded in.

Feeling poems come to the surface often feels much like piecing together dreams from barely remembered fragments. The more I can make myself be present in the world of the dream, or poem, the more it comes to life around me.

Anonymous said...

Very much enjoyed my leisurely stroll through your a poet and an avid reader, I found it both an enriching and an elightening experience. I thank you for it...

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the essays do it for me too. Caffeine definately works but it makes me jittery as all hell.

Radish King said...

I stop writing.
I've found it doesn't like to be refused.

Anne said...

Interesting ideas, all! It's fascinating how many different ways there are to approach the creative process. I've found that for myself, anything I can do to take control of the process -- rather than expecting it to control me -- is a good thing. Which isn't to say there isn't an element of uncontrollable magic about it...