Thursday, August 21, 2008

Find a Poem, Pick it Up

Two Men Fighting with a Knife

Will I...

Will I ever...

Will I ever write a poem again?

These are the anxious thoughts that plague me when it's been a while since I've found a poem. I say found a poem, because in essence this is what happens to me. Poetry is not something I can force. Indeed, I cannot force deep writing of any kind (okay, so I should remember this now that I am stuck, again, on my next chapter in God in the Yard.)

Instead, my deep writing happens kind of like this... mystery, open spaces (mentally), serendipity, inspiration, illumination, resolve.

Just for example, I have no idea exactly where Alteration Found came from yesterday. It is, at some level a mystery. But then I kind of DO know where it came from.

I had been at the pool, reading John Poch's book Two Men Fighting with a Knife. I especially liked a poem Poch wrote to his neurosurgeon. I found myself lost in its rhythms. I felt inspired. Was it not serendipitous that I was reading Poch on the same day that my Littlest just didn't talk in the car (a miracle of miracles, giving me mental open spaces)? And was it not also serendipitous that I had been reading about the brain and its structural changes, in another book I brought to the pool: Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot?

As I began toying with words, illumination followed. Some of my thoughts were sounding familiar... like a Shakespeare poem. I resolved to look the particular poem up when I got home, and to play off that poem with my own unique words... in another act of resolve— the resolve to capture a half-there poem before it could get away.

And thus I found my poem. And now I am wondering...

Will I...

Will I ever...

Will I ever write a poem again?

Mark Goodyear's A Good Book About Grace

I Ignore My Family to Read Poetry

Two Men Fighting with a Knife photo, by L.L. Barkat.

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Blogger Mark Goodyear said...

Wonderful post! (Am I FIRST TO COMMENT?!) I hear what you're saying. And I enjoy the poems you post at Love Notes--being a bit of a poetry evangelist, you know.

But for me poetry is about self-discipline. This is something I do, regularly. Daily, really.

Don't misunderstand. A whole lot of the verse I write out discipline is dreck. But many poems would never happen for me if I didn't resolve to stay committed to the genre.

I figure John approaches it as a discipline too.

4:36 PM  
Blogger John said...

I won't comment on my own poems, but you certainly did right to purchase poetry, and in this instance it happens to be mine. Much thanks.

I don't think poets have to be as disciplined as prose writers when it comes to sitting down and banging out the words on the page. But I do think poets have to give the world and words our attention constantly so we don't miss the poems that are happening under our noses, our feet, and skateboards. Nevertheless, when prompted, I'll always respond, Writers write. You may want to be a writer, you may dream of it, but if you don't get words to happen, you may be something else: a dentist, a dad, an entrepeneur. Writers write. It is a discipline to me...if I figure that I disciple myself to the better writers who have come before me. In this case one says, Writers read. OK, I swore off blogging and even posting a month ago, but I had to chime in.

4:56 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Mark... the very first. Okay, so you must tell us why you are a poetry evangelist. And as far as being disciplined about writing poetry... oh well. (Does poetic blogging count? :)

John... maybe you should comment on your own poems. What fun. Many people will be puzzled by the thought that it is right to purchase poetry (so I invite you to be an evangelist too and step up on this soapbox I'm setting out for you... tell us why it is right to purchase poetry) As you can probably tell, the idea that poems are happening right under our feet totally resonates with me. My job is to find them. But I like how you put it... be attentive. (Oh, and I laughed out loud about your observation on writers becoming dentists! )

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just happen to be smack dab in the middle of wondering if i will ever write a poem again. good timing to come here this afternoon. reading poetry ... check. giving attention to my world and words ... check. writing something - anything ... check (but not poetry). i am actually enjoying the 'noticing' that i'm not writing poetry ... and the not doing anything with what i'm noticing.


7:57 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

I like your poem even if I don't get it 100% though methinks I may get the gist of it!

I know what it means to labor hard in writing. Just my posts daily, lately, have been uphill.

I also know what it's like to wonder where that came from, how it flows, and when I lose a thought, how I normally can never retrieve it. How the writing has to flow. But lately that seems like a memory, though why I'm not sure.

But anyhow, quite interesting, and just shows how the humanity and influence of writers affects writing.

Much appreciating your book (Stone Crossings), and the more I, as a reader put into it, the more I'm getting out of it.

8:18 PM  
OpenID samwrites2 said...

And gifted
again by your writing.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

I used to think I didn't like poetry. Now, I think we just got off to a bad start.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Miriam said...

This is awesome, L.L. So inspiring and neat to hear of your creative process. It really is all gift, isn't it?

9:25 PM  
OpenID spaghettipie said...

I love how you walked me through your creative process! It's like getting to watch a chef you admire cook, or a musician you love practice. Thanks!

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Jim Martin said...

L.L.-- A very nice post! Read it twice and enjoyed it very much. And--I read your comment moments ago and appreciate what you are saying re being attentive. Thanks.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Dianne said...

I think "found" things are best also. Reminds me of Michaelangelo discovering figures in the stone he sculpted. Loved your thoughts here.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

I have to admit this isn't something I've worried about much recently. There was a while when I did a lot of worrying along the lines of "will I ever write a poem as good as Penelope again, but these days I do feel like I'm improving (even if I haven't reached that height again) so I'm not so worried.

For me, writing as I do with fairly strict forms, poetry is a real construction exercise. You have to collect together all the pieces and make them fit together as a whole into a fairly specific pattern. As a result, there can be considerable force involved. The trick, and the start of a good poem, is usually to realise when things might fit together well enough that it won't look forced at the end!

That said, 'Penelope' and my most recent sonnet are two of my better poems, I think, and both were unusual in that they were written fast with the major work done within the space of a few hours. At the end they both cohered well enough that I couldn't really remember the steps that got there. That said, there were steps involving serious construction work, for all that they both felt as if they might have been organic once I was finished.

3:18 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I feel that same way about poetry, like it finds me, like I never know if I'll write another. And right now, it's been a long time. But I like to think of poems, percolating inside of me, and someday they'll be ready to cozy up and have a drink.

1:26 PM  
Blogger SuzyQ said...

And that's the beauty and mystery of Poetry right there!
Will I ever?

2:56 PM  

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