Monday, October 12, 2009

I haven't written a poem since I started this blog. While this break lasted a little longer than I expected, I'm have no anxiety or concern about it. Some of my friends bemoan when they go any length of time without writing. I tell them they're being ridiculous (which usually pisses them off, but I know I'm right). I don't believe we're supposed to be nonstop poem-production machines. The downtime is when we recharge, when we unconsciously incubate. We can't rush that. Not without consequences. If we don't recharge, it shows in our work. I wrote the last poem for God Damsel on April 30. This summer and early fall I've been editing and revising. I'm close to finishing. I can feel the hamsters in my brain back in their wheels. It's noisy in there again.

I mentioned here that I've been dreaming a lot of death and pregnancy these past couple months. Those are becoming fewer. Last night I had two dreams. The first one I dreamed that Gideon opened a box and let out all the animal-flies. The crocodile-fly grew full size and bit my arm. Crocodiles and snakes occasionally bite me in dreams, so I'm kinda used to it. My second dream was about writing poems again. The first one was long and ended with an exclamation to Harriet! I was quite emphatic about that. Then I started my second poem, something about that story being over in my life.

I guess that's my cue.


  1. I agree with you, Reb. Here's a wonderful quote I use often to remind myself about this process, what I now call wool gathering, thanks to AS Byatt.
    I quote in full here:
    " She remembered from what now seemed the astonishing free and spacious days of her education the phenomenon of the first day's work on a task. One had to peel one's mind from its run of preoccupations: coffee to buy, am I in love, the yellow dress needs mending, Tim is unhappy, what is wrong with Marcus, how shall I live my life? It took time before the task in hand seemed possible, and more before it came to life, and more still before it became imperative and obsessive.

    There had to be a time before thought, a wool-gathering time when nothing happened, a time of yawning, of wandering eyes and feet, of reluctance to do what would finally become delightful and energetic. Threads of thought had to rise and be gathered and catch on other threads of old thought, from some unused memory store."

    A. S. Byatt Still Life

  2. I like it! Although in my case I don't feel like "nothing" is happening -- just nothing in terms of poem writing. Which I think is another a good reason not to force poems before they're ready.

  3. Reb, I love the fact that I am NOT a "nonstop poem-production machine." I am a person. I do other stuff, too. Helen Losse

  4. I definitely find I have "dry" times when I'm not writing anything, or anyway not writing things down on a page. Poetry, I've come to feel (how it feels to me), begins in the silence before words.

    (The actual experience or perceptions or "subject matter" of a poem could be pretty much anything. But I need at some point to get to that point of silence before the poem will start taking shape.)

    I've begun to feel that this is more or less connected to the notion I've encountered a couple of places that creative work tends to come from whatever part of a person's psyche is the least formed or developed (or maybe least "emerged" would be a little closer word for it).

    In routine daily life I make my way around very much intuitively, feeling the landscapes of people and rooms as I approach them with feelers out. When I start to burn out on that, when I can't take it any more, the sizzle of all those auras or whatever they are, I retreat into playing with things like numbers and statistics and diagrams and logic puzzles, while I go numb for a while.

    When poems aren't hurrying to come, I tend to spend time walking around cluttered places, construction areas with broken concrete, a piece of ground with a couple of old boards, weeds growing at the edge of a building. Places with strong (silent) tactile character. Good for incubation of possible someday poems.

  5. I wish I were a poet. Prose writing never seems to plumb such depths. Lyle's thoughts and ways of expressing them inspire me, but as everyone here seems to say, you can't force it.