Everyone has their own way of writing, reason for writing, and process for writing. Over the years I’ve talked to many poets and writers and asked them to tell me what inspires them, how does the poem begin, where does it begin, and how, ultimately, does it complete itself upon the page.
Interestingly, though I’ve spoken to dozens of poets and writers, no two answered the same way. For me, for example, something touches me, moves me, motivates me and through the feelings I have, words start to form in my head. Suddenly, I have a line or two and, being me, I need to instantly find a place to write the lines down, otherwise I will lose them, as more words and lines start stacking up and I begin to get lost in the “adrenalin” of inspiration.
Emily Dickinson said, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” In other words, so much emotion and passion became real, became words inside her head, that a poem simply had to be “born.”
Mary Oliver said, “Poetry is one of the ancient arts, and it begins as did all the fine arts, within the original wilderness of the earth.” She seems to be saying that inspiration, the process of writing for her, comes from the earth, from nature, from the very core of her being and her connection to the natural world.
Poet Joy Harjo describes her relationship with poetry in the following way, “When I began to listen to poetry, it’s when I began to listen to the stones, and I began to listen to what the clouds had to say, and I began to listen to others. And I think, most importantly for all of us, then you begin to learn to listen to the soul, the soul of yourself in here, which is also the soul of everyone else.” Writing poetry for poet, Joy Harjo, seems to be inspired by her roots and her need to connect with where she came from and who she is.
One of the most moving descriptions of how (or why) to write was written by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. She said, “There’s a reason poets often say, ‘Poetry saved my life,’ for often the blank page is the only one listening to the soul’s suffering, the one registering the story completely, the only receiving all softly and without condemnation.” “Writing, real writing, should leave a small sweet bruise somewhere on the writer.. and on the reader.” I absolutely love this as it seems to speak directly to me and to my need to write.
The process, the source of inspiration, that “thing” which takes over our minds and our hearts and instructs us to write, no – more than instructs – commands us to write, wears a different face; smiles or frowns, yells or whispers, taunts or teaches each of us, in a special way. One very dear friend and mentor, poet Dan Masterson, used to say that poetry was like a chicken bone, stuck in the throat. You just had to get it out. Another poet I knew, went off into the woods and composed the entire poem in his head and then, came home and wrote it down.
Writing is as personal and as unique as your fingerprints. Only you can write your poem. Only you will feel that passion or pain, that drives you to the blank page where you and your muse will compose your poem, in your way, for your very own, very personal reasons. And if we, the reader are very lucky, you will take us on a journey into your mind and beyond, into your heart, into the very soul of your inspiration.. And, if the poem achieves its goal, we will be forever changed by it, by you and the words that came into your head and found their way onto the page.