Monday, December 09, 2013

The reading of poetry begets more poetry



The reading of poetry begets more poetry – Billy Collins

When I write poetry the words tumble out at a rate of knots,
bumbling over each other, each keen to be stepping into place,
and I tell them it's not a race, that there's no prize for being first,
because anyway, the first word is always first and the later words are
later, unless of course I jumble them into some different order, like
words on a refrigerator door sitting waiting to be sorted into
something that makes some sort of sense, though often humorists
will come by and replace the sensible with the surreal, like
aimless iPods sitting by dancing kisses, instead of man photographs
woman screaming
. As poetry it's not ideal though it has a kind of
counterintuitive subconscious feel.

                                                            When Richard Wilbur writes,
I read, he writes one apt line at a time, each one polished before the
next steps into line. Billy Collins tells me that typing a few words at a
time is the best way to work anyway. I apply this regime with great
vigour, except that when it comes to the point of writing a poem, the
shuffling words don't stand waiting in a queue, like derelict street
people at a soup kitchen, passive, subdued by the pressure of just
making it through the day; rather they surround the helicopter of the
poem like men and women fresh from the terrors of the latest
tornado, people so cut off from the rest of the world that a box
tossed from the sky is literal manna from Heaven, and all good
manners and polite behaviours are pushed aside in the
jostle for something from the providers, the once-a-day
deliverers, the sun-shaded sun-screened Red Cross or
UNICEF or World Vision aid workers, who, hearts afire,
struggle to see these faces individually.

                                                                        See, this is what
happens. The poem was never supposed to bring in people
sleeping on the street, or struggling to feed themselves, or
helicopters flushing out a space in the bush, threshing the
grasses and swishing up leaves and pushing the trees out in a
wider circle. The poem was supposed to mention a little about
words rushing rather than me shushing them, it was supposed to
show that good ideas need space and pressing them down at a
ridiculous pace on the face of an iPad is counterproductive to
properly-formed poems. Yes, I'd agree, but the words in my head
don't heed and come like a young husband on his honeymoon night. 

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