Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Business of Poetry, Part 6: Trial and Error, Blank Pages and Failures

So, now, we get on to the writing.

To the writing.


And there is all this yawning space on the blank page or screen.

Waiting for you to write.

To write.


And that, in a nutshell, is all there is to it! (She says, with a false breeziness.)


To write.

What that means is that you have to take what has been on your mind, in your mind, over your heart and between your ears, and the silent music that is there must form words that become a music that can be transcribed from your mind to the silence of the page or the screen—for what we are talking about is silent music that moves mysteriously into different silent venues before taking flight as sound. What you may be doing is a kind of translation from the music of your mind into the speech that you have been trained to use and understand.



Here is an example of an idea I had that has never quite made it to completion. This past November, I got an idea. The idea was the title (this happens from time to time), and the development was supposed clarify my idea artfully. HA!

--* White Out *--

That was the idea. I was clear about what I was trying to achieve. The problem was, all I had was the title. The rest of the words were not finding a pathway onto the page.

I had, I suppose, a certain expectation that now that I had the idea and the clarity, the words would pour out. But they didn’t.

[I will digress for a moment to talk about the revelatory experience that can be an aspect of writing. This is an aspect that cannot be taken for granted. It is an aspect that cannot be overlooked. If you believe in something we will call, for the sake of discussion, “Divine Creation” and that life is somehow an integral weaving of communicative energies, then it can only seem natural that, if nothing else, your writing is a “note to self” of a sort.

I have done some work that I felt sure I had conceived and crafted, only to read it later be astonished at what bounced off the page at me. What I am saying is that the messages that bounce off the page can frequently be other than what you thought you were meticulously crafted. Be prepared for this. Be prepared to be amazed.

On the other hand, be prepared for this to be an unusual circumstance.]

So, the words weren’t pouring out, and I thought, gee, I guess I should make the words happen. So, I began…

“White Out” – Draft Notes

white flakes, snow moon
purify widening circles
like waves, rings
cause the negative cast
to surrender shadow to void
wideness of truth

“White Out” – Draft 1

If light is as easy as breath,
and liquid as the sea of stars
shining over the south seas,
then I can believe light wills
its journey to  fill the darkness
to white out and thus
cause each negative cast
surrender its shadowy mantle
for the wider array of truth.

If light is as easy as breath,
wrapped in the mantle of light
we shall be blind  to differences,
keener to our similar roles,
being, as we would, all of us,
points of light, pointing to one light

Light reaches out from a sea of stars…


No, this was not flowing. It was not feeling good. When you feel like what you are doing isn’t working, it is best to move on and come back to it.


So, I came back to it several days later. This time, I was armed with an epigraph that I thought might be helpful in channeling the proper words onto the page.

“White Out” – Draft 2 Notes

Epigraph: John 1:51

And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending…”

“White Out” – Draft 2

One star,
one light;
one night
gives flight
to possibility.

Sparks fly,
moons sigh,
singing tales
of probable fails.

Positives shout:
white out
of differences
to abiligility.  [yes, this is a neologism…]

Star lighting,
fly sighing,
shout outing
among any snowy shores…



No. It was just not happening, so I abandoned that draft.

I came back later.

“White Out” – Draft 3 Notes

What if an angel came in answer to a prayer? – refigure the piece as a question.

“White Out” – Draft 3

Moonlight frames her
as she scans the field.
Her visibility perturbs her not
[and then I remember a similar line in a Wilfred Owen poem,
            which disturbs me, but I keep going…]
--shameless self-promotion
is neither desired nor needed needed nor desired;
she is well-known,
if little understood—
outstanding in her field…


I now realize that I am writing about an owl. I ended up writing two poems called Night and Day from that material.

[So here is where I mention, casually, that everything you put down could actually end up being used and part of a completed poem someday, with patience and perseverance. So don’t tear the sheets of paper up and ball them up. Nothing need go to waste.]

I set “White Out” aside for a number of weeks.

In the meanwhile, my notebook records meeting minutes, grocery lists, calendar items and drafts of other poems that are now complete.

I return to my “White Out” – Draft 3 Notes,  thinking I can begin again.

(What if an angel came in answer to a prayer? – refigure the piece as a question.)

“White Out” – Draft 4

Complete white out
is what we need.

Answer our prayer,
if you dare,
Dear Angel,
do this deed;
prove wrong
the naysayer,
and all who clutch at doubt.

I feel you heed
by warmth of music,
and then you fall—
a daystar into the sea.

Your ribbon of flame
freezes the waters to ice,
reflection which blinds
as surely as viewing the sun
or sighting burning bush.

In white out,

no. No. NO!  That’s not it.


Have I finished “White Out”? No. I have hopes.

Meanwhile, I have written a number of essays and other poems, have premiered a new piece of music, as wells as published some short interviews and a chapbook.  And I keep observing and reading and thinking.

You do what you do and the branches of the tree eventually bear fruit. Some of the fruit is easier to bring forth, but that is only normal.

Keep on writing!


Next time: Flow, Wherein the words flow onto the page

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