Poet’s notebook

Poet’s notebook

As I shared in a recent post, a friend and I are exchanging poems on a 48 hour basis, meaning he sends me a poem and I have to send a poem in reply within 48 hours. They are supposed to be spontaneous with no editing, no rewrites, straight from the heart, straight from the source. Engaging in this kind of writing has taught me yet one more thing about my writing process. (Yet? You can tell I am incredulous that I can still learn something about my modus operandi.) It has taught me that there is a part of me that is happy with a raw, naïve or unfinished poem. That was obvious when I started writing “serious” poetry as a teenager back in the mid-sixties, when I fell head over heels in love with language and trusted my instincts more. There is an element here of returning to my roots as a poet, but, you see, that was so long ago that this restored freedom of expression feels brand new! I even started reading Pablo Neruda, a favorite of my youth, as if I have never read him before. Now that I am older than he was when he wrote those poems, I see how truly revolutionary he was. When I was younger I was merely mesmerized by his worldliness, his confidence and distain for convention. Neruda was master of pulling all the stops and feeling his way through the dark patches of his times with eyes on his fingertips as it were.

Am I alone in feeling that getting something published is often a downer the day after? This is an unfinished thought. It is half of a truth, but the other half of that truth has something to do with how I am beginning to wonder if a truly creative process is also a form of product, because real creativity is never finished. It only peaks or crests and perhaps you can freeze it there but the spirit of creativity cannot be contained by any static form and right at the moment it crests, going with the image of the wave, the energy of the effort is already being reabsorbed by the building of another process (or project). The trick is to know when to let something go. To really let something go.

I want to suggest that this preoccupation with publishing poems often contributes to the false presumption that the best or worthiest or most valuable poems are the ones that “make it” to publication. Whereas I think that the best writing never sees much of the light of day, like the mycelia of the mushroom, rarely seen or shared but flourishing in the poet’s notebook. I have always been more interested in process than product. One reason I am anti-capitalist is very personal. If you look at most of the stuff that people buy and sell, there is no art or poetry in it anywhere. Someday, some way we will come to our senses and revamp the system of supply and demand. We will humanize it so that people will demand more poetry in life, I mean in everyday life, and artists and writers will be as respected as architects and doctors and teachers, as they are in Ireland where, if you announce that you want to recite a poem in a pub, everyone quiets down and listens.




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