A poem begins with inspiration. A thought, a feeling, a sense of urgency, a need to express ourselves, comes over us and, the poem is born. At least, the beginning of the poem, is born. Ideas spill out of us in the form of words and images. We write as though driven by something beyond ourselves and then, the wave crashes on the shore, and we believe, for just a moment, that the poem is done. In fact, the poem has just begun. Like the first, vague hints of labor, there’s a long way to go, a lot of “suffering” to endure, before the poem is truly born.
It is at this point, that I advise my students to do one of two things, reread-rewrite, reread-rewrite or, put the poem away for a day or two, a week or two, and then come back to it with a fresh new feeling for it – almost as if you’re reading someone else’s poem – for the very first time. And then, here comes the hard part, be brutal with yourself. Find things wrong with the poem. Find words that are out of place, find rhythms that interrupt the flow of the poem, find images that are trite or overused, find images that are inadequate, and then, start the real job of the writer – start rewriting your poem.
Just as in a garden, each seed grows into its own flower, each word in your poem grows into a part of the poem, an essential part of the poem. So, each word must matter. Each word must earn its place in your poem by being essential to its meaning, its passion, its purpose.
BUT – never, ever discard the original version of the poem. Sometimes you will discover that there is something in that first version, a line, a stanza, a phrase, a combination of words, that is essential to the poem being, the poem you need to write. Notice please, I said “need” to write. Because if you are a poet, if you aspire to be a poet, please know that poets write not so much out of desire, as out of need. If you don’t NEED to write the poem, it may not be worth writing in the first place.
This week’s focus is on “inspiration.” Perhaps there is a poem living inside of you, needing to be written, that has to do with inspiration – something you saw, experienced, heard about – that you felt deep inside of you, motivating you, inspiring you. If you do write that poem, consider submitting it, through my Chat Room, here at www.poetladykatz.com the first week of November. I would love to read it and consider it for Featured Poem of the Month, for November.
ï Poetry is what in a poem makes you laugh, cry, prickle, be silent, makes your toe nails twinkle, makes you want to do this or that or nothing, makes you know that you are alone in the unknown world, that your bliss and suffering is forever shared and forever all your own. ~Dylan Thomas