So, What’s up with Writing? pt. 1

I’ve written about why I write, and I’ve written a lot in response to the readings I’ve done for class, and now I want to write about the way in which I write.  Or at least about the two major ways in which I write.

I wrote a few minutes ago that the feather in the dogwood tree outside my in-law’s has been there since November (or at least Thanksgiving), and I find that about half of my poems begin this way.  An image from everyday life that remains lodged in my mind for a while.  Usually it will roll around up there until it connects to some kind of other idea or makes a metaphor of itself.  In this particular case, it has been somewhere between 4 and 5 months, and about once every couple of weeks, this image pops into my head and insists on about 30 seconds worth of processing power.  This often takes the form of wondering how that image might fit into (or control, or whatever) a poem.  I still haven’t quite worked that out yet.

After bouncing around for a while, an image might attach itself to a metaphor, or a narrative, or maybe even a phrase or line, and that becomes the germination point.  The image is the seed, the rest is the soilsunrain that gets it all going.  Like I said, this is the process for about half of my writing.  It’s slow and frustrating.  I find with these poems that they flower very quickly (to continue the metaphor), but that they need a lot of attention and pruning.  I almost always write at least 15 significantly different versions of these.  One poem I am significantly satisfied with has been in the works for a couple of years now… Like I said, it’s a long process.

I’m not sure how I would connect this particular process to the readings I’ve been doing.  I guess that finding a way to connect these kinds of minute observations to something larger or more important or human or whatever links to some things I’ve read in Tony Hoagland’s Real Sofistikashun, but I’m not completely convinced.  It’s like a study in lateral thinking, to get these images into something that deserves reading by others.  Like this feather: what kind of narrative or metaphor works here?  I am beginning to have a few ideas, and maybe I need to sit down and just write it out, but I’m not sure the conditions are quite right for germination yet.  I think maybe also this method connects a little to what Susan Stewart writes about in Poetry and the Fate of the Senses.  She writes a lot about the voice, and how applying the voice brings us (humans) out of the darkness (of the animal).  Using the imagination and providing voice to these images can only be a sort of fulfillment of that.

This is already a long post.  Like that feather, it has held on tenaciously and made me work my mind a little.  So, I will not drag it out by writing about my other primary method of composition, and instead leave you again with the image of the feather stuck in a dogwood tree:

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