Wednesday, January 19, 2022



Most of the time I write to find out what comes after the sentence after the one I just wrote. I have a particular set of strategies, notions of musical phrase , cadence, rhythm and structure I’ve developed over a good many years—and this isn’t imply that I’ve mastered this form of poetry, free, at all — and I’ve internalized these linguistic habits much as a jazz musician internalizes his training and notions of theory; I come up with a first line and consider what object, word, image, attitude it contains and try to imagine what sounds musical and rhythmic and a logical expansion on the details the first sentence contains. It’s theme and variation, improvisation of a sort in the moment of creation, seeing where the initial idea takes me, stanza to stanza, until I come to a place to a poem where it can end with a resolution (or irresolution) that satisfies me, and perhaps satisfies a reader. What I discover about myself is that there is another way to explore emotion, experience, spiritual and philosophical concepts without resorting to the mechanical language of the academy.

If you want to write good poems, poems that even readers you don’t know personally would want to read again, you must read poetry, lots of it. It’s tempting to dismiss that advice and insist that you want your vision of life to be unique, wholly your own, untainted by the form or reason of other writers, but we go back again whether you want your verse to be read and read again by the widest possible number of people who have an interest in poetry. Reading other poets, published poets, and discussing their work is the best way to get a workable (and surprisingly adaptable) idea of the general form and flow that good poems have. The impulse to merely gush emotion and to attempt to enhance every emotion with qualifiers and ineffective cliches looms large in the young poet, and the key lesson is the learning of craft. Writing good poems—in this case , let us say those works that strike you as fresh, free of cliche and cant—is no less a craft than writing good , effective prose. Most effective for many poets is a starting point of an image, which may be a something that strikes them as odd, out of place, or extraordinary in some peculiar way that the observer, the writer in this case, needs to write around the mute object (the unspeakable uniqueness of natural and material phenomenon which defy description and which taunt the limits of language to contain) and create a conversation with this rediscovered sliver of the world with new ideas and phrases that might ,perhaps inspire the population to engage with their reality more creatively, assertively. 

T.S. Eliot commented in an essay that poetry is a means for the poet and eventually get beyond their emotions and gather something like an elevated grace by means of their purely human perceptions (of not from the intervention of a god of their diffuse understanding). The quote, frequently extracted from his book  The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), is precisely this passage: 

"Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves."

    I would agree, yes, generally, but I would also say that good poems, good art can help the mind join a person’s random collection of half processed and ill-remembered experiences and produce a feeling —sensual, spiritual, political, romantic, philosophical—can did exist within the person before
reading and considering a poet’s (or artist’s) work. Much of the time I believe poems, when they are good and evocative , from the pen of a master, can cleave together, the dissociated bits of memories and create a new sensation. It is often said that a poet , novelist, songwriter writes and finishes their individual projects because they want to find out what happens, to discover how it ends. 

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