Thursday, September 27, 2012

Writing Poetry--What Is Required?

If you were going to answer my question--which of course is not rhetorical--and you were itemizing little gobbets of need in your head, please don't trot out the word MUSE which concept I have always taken against. Is it a man/woman thing--the undertones of sexuality and gender predisposing me to find the idea that I need another being to create incredulous? Perhaps. I do not want or fear (the wrath of) a muse.

Listing necessities:
  • time--This is what I always want--time to think about this particular poem, but also to plan out a series or to just unload the heavy apple tree of my head. I can remember having time just how I wanted it for three weeks once when I received a grant and took off from teaching. Then my mother broke her arm and her leg. But I find there are all kinds of nooks and crannies of time that can be made useful, the necessity of writing squeezing into my life like toothpaste. Of course, would I write more/differently if I had leisure in which to find and pursue my projects?
  • space--It is very nice to have one's own office, even though my office at home functions best as a repository of papers I should go through and file or throw away. I like my wooden table that was once my kitchen table as the place where my poems congregate. But I have also written in the car, the bath, the bed, at the office (shh), in classrooms, in dreams, recently at the kitchen table at my writers retreat with people drifting in to find their first cup of coffee, at other people's poetry readings . . .
  • computer--I almost always start writing long hand, sometimes encouraging revision with longhand as well. I really like being able to physically cross out with my pencil or pen or draw arrows or flip back and forth to different pages in my notebook. But at a certain point, I need the computer to be able to tell how long a line looks, what words I can move up and down, how the shape feels, the white space, what would happen if I took out all the punctuation and so on. And of course now there's the electronic submission--heaven!
  • idea or the thing that natters at me--This is sometimes just a whisper, sometimes the cataloging voice that says you need that even though I have no idea why. I always try to pay attention. (This is not the muse talking to me.)
  • critical faculty--something that pushes in the beginning to better, newer ways of presenting, rejecting the usual, and then cleans up at the end--traffic cop and washerwoman.
  • books--The one thing I would do if I had more time would be to read more books, journals, science articles, essays, poems, novels to get a better view of the world, both literary and otherwise.

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