31 August 2010

Lessons Gleaned From Writing (Or Not Writing) Poetry

A confession, of sorts. I haven’t been writing much poetry this month. That used to make me nervous, and send me running for a new notebook, blank Word document, old envelope. Or if not writing poetry, I work on the Mostly Finished Fantasy Novel, short stories, an essay, a grocery list. Something. Anything. Not anymore. I’ve come to terms with the oddities of my personal creative process. One of the major oddities is that sometimes, I just don’t write. Not can’t, don’t.

Not because I can’t conjure the words to fill the space, it’s more of a sense of waiting. The poems are still there in bits and parts, stacked against the brain pan in various packing crates of inspiration. Lading bills jet around on sudden Muse driven thoughts. Morning strato-cumulus clouds, a flight of birds against the setting sun, prairie grass billowing in the wind. The feeling of remorse over something I thought long dead and buried. The cool weight of a new wrench before work on an old car. All things that inspired poetics.

I have to be careful. Sometimes the inspiration is false and needs to die a quick death. Other times inspiration hides between the pretty images and fakes its way into a few lines. If not caught it can spin itself up into a poem, but one that sounds hollow when you thump its sides. Desperation likes to take inspiration for a ride – then shove it out along a deserted road. I’m learning.

To avoid abandonment, I let my mind lay fallow. I read, not just poetry, but everything I can get my hands on. Like a squirrel stocking up for the winter, printed words are fair game. In the past month I’ve read theology, psychology, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, young adult fiction, historical fiction magazines, poetry books, everything online I could access, and the user’s manual to my new phone. But still, no poetry spills forth.

A funny thing happens when I decide to edit the horrendous mass of poetry I wrote the past few months. I edit . . . find a line, a word, a turn of phrase – and a whole new poem springs from the cooled ashes of what came before. Subjects I thought explored offer up new ideas and undiscovered tangents. Themes band together and demand more time, more poems. Words gush forth. Where I despaired of finding one chapbook worth of themed poems I now have three.

What to do with the “Ologies”? Theology, psychology, and sociology demand further attentions. Those poems come naturally, appearing like good little beacons on a dark night. Where does that leave the occasional anthropology or ornithology poem? A handful of orphaned haiku? The bastard sonnet? Those are the poems cultivated in nothingness, born of randomly sown ideas. Write, don’t write, write out of the box. It’s an interesting dilemma to have. I just hope I don’t forget how I got here – meandering the path of consciously not writing.



Kathleen Cassen Mickelson said...

You won't forget how you got there, Constance. I thumped the side of this essay a few times and it's far from hollow. Nice, keen awareness of your process....and thank you for exploring the generally undiscussed fact writers aren't always driven to write every day. And that it's not a sin!

Gabriele Campbell said...

Heh, I get a poem maybe once a year while they seem to invade your house / brain / whatever. Perhaps I should get me some corgies. :)

Constance Brewer said...

Kathleen - I write something everyday, even if it's stuff for work. But creative, meaningful writing comes in waves. I can live with that.

Constance Brewer said...

Gabriele - I think you would do well with a small herd of Corgis. LOL They would scamper over Roman ruins just fine.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Maybe I could teach them how to use metal detectors and get my very own Roman catapult bolt. :)

Constance Brewer said...

Bet you could attach a detector to their bellies - they'd be pretty close to the ground!