25 July 2006

In which the author poses many questions and offers few answers.

Where do poems go if you don't write them?

I was contemplating this the other evening when I was on the verge of not writing a poem. It's a very familiar place for me. I don't mean that I was sitting in a swanky cafe gazing into traffic and brushing away the first twinges of poetry. I was at my desk, in front of the computer, a glass of wine sweating on my ceramic Michigan coaster (go blue), husband watching children, no excuses other than, well, being exhausted and overwhelmed and whatnot. Poetry group deadline looming. Comfy bed calling to me like a Canada goose in a retention pond. Okay, that doesn't make sense. But I didn't feel like writing a poem.

I still wrote it. And really, the first two stanzas were like gallstones. I'd started a version of the poem a few days earlier in my office, and it just wasn't going anywhere. Now I'm in love with it. How the hell does that happen?

So what if you opt to give up? Does the idea stay inside your body and eventually dissolve? Does it shuttle over to the nearest trash can and die? Can you add it to your arsenal for later use?

I have a feeling I will be contemplating this for a while. Any thoughts or experiences? How full is your Dumpster?


Penultimatina said...

PS--I also wonder if the same is true for fiction. Anyone?

Justin Evans said...

the poems I don't write, or the ideas for poems I don't write, get lost. Occasionally the fragments will stick around and glue themselves to another piece, something like fusion, but for the majority, I lose them.

I would like to believe that they stay with my on a subconscious level, but that is only true if they actually get written down. Like most, I keep all my fragments and look them over from time to time. Because I write in at least 10-12 notebooks at any given time---whatever is available, I am sometimes surprised by something from my forgotten past, which is always a blast.

I have a friend who does all his writing in his head, for up to 18 months BEFORE he even attempts to write anything. He says he always has 7-10 poems swimming around, but before any make it to paper (at least his long narratives) it has been about 18 months. I would go out of my mind trying to remember all of that.

What happens to your ideas?

Stephanie King said...

There is something that I've been meaning to write for about a year now and I can't seem to get it down in the form that I'm most comfortable with. Pieces of it keep showing up in all the other poems I write since then.

So I guess I believe that if you don't get it out, it sticks with you until you do it right.

J. Newberry said...

I have a bad feeling that when I die, all of my aborted poems will be there, dancing around a gigantic "DELETE" key, just waiting to erase me for eternity.

Penultimatina said...

Justin, I have these lines that have been hanging around in my head for twelve or so years! Over time my enthusiasm for them has waned, however, so maybe that's why I haven't used them yet. As far as ideas go...I'm afraid that 99% of my poems are inspired by the same idea. *sigh*

Stephanie--well said!

J.N.--You've got me cracking up over here!

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