11 November 2008

Poems: can we keep them locked inside for too long?

We always hear the story about the poet/author who keeps his/her oeuvre simmering over decades, and then finally sits down and writes a masterpiece. But what can we learn from this story? Is it dangerous to--in cheesy pseudo-psychology terms--keep it all bottled up inside?

I've been really busy and stressed out lately, and therefore have been not writing. The things I've tried to write have been disappointing, and I don't like to disappoint anybody. So that I don't feel like a slacker, I've been trying to accumulate some images and let them percolate and create a tension, with the hope that one of these days I'll put the inbox and annotations aside and just write the damn thing. I'm still waiting for the water to boil.

How do you feel about the poetic crock pot: toss in some items, put the lid on, then try to forget about it (and not peek inside until it's done, no matter how tempting it might be)?

NOTE: If you are going to put noodles in the crock pot, wait until the end of the cooking time, or else you'll have a bloated, gloppy mess. Rice can be delicate like that, too.

Anyone else out there have something simmering? Is there such thing as too much time under low heat?


Collin Kelley said...

I've had lines for poems simmering in my brain for weeks before I ever commit them to paper or my laptop. Sometimes I create almost an entire poem in my head before i write it down. Yes, things have been hectic and busy, but I feel like every day a poem simmers in my brain the more flavor it will have.

Word verification: cater

garylmcdowell said...

I'm a simmer-er. It's the only way I can write anymore. I write random lines and images and phrases down in random places and then after a few weeks I collect them all and try to wrestle them into a poem.

There's just not near enough time anymore to actually sit down to write for an extended period of time. But I've found this new composition strategy to be quite productive... not in terms of number of poems but in quality.

jeannine said...

Interesting topic, Mary. For one thing, don't beat yourself up for not writing, I feel like writers have some internal self-flagellation mechanism if they're not turning out sixty poems a month or whatever.
In my own writing, I notice I have some inspiration flash (a story, a movie, an idea, an image) and then I may have that in the back of my head for a while. Then I'll write a couple of poems about that, then go back to simmering, take a new direction, and write a couple more poems. I tend to write in small batches, like baking scones, since we're using cooking terms. The poems generally show up when I have time and space for thought, which is usually late at night or early in the morning, and generally when I have something "more important" to do.
Here's wishing you more writing time and less stress :)

Penultimatina said...

Jeannine, I think I need to turn off my internal self-flagellation mechanism. :) Thanks for your thoughts!

Michael said...

I will let lines simmer too. I think it is preferable to forcing something into being in one setting.

I don't like to pull back from writing something, anything,for more than maybe a day and a half. If something is not working I move on and let the first item cook a bit and come back to it.

Steven D. Schroeder said...

I am just posting to note that (A) you have the best conversation-starter posts of any po-blog out there, and (B) my word verification right now is "rejactic," which is easily the best one of those I've ever seen. Positively rejactic.

Steven D. Schroeder said...

And now "tensid." I am having far too much fun with these.

Penultimatina said...

*blush* Thank you, Steve!

wv: frevin (which is exactly how I feel this morning)

Oliver de la Paz said...

Word, Steven. Great conversation starters, Mary Bid.

I write in spurts and for most of the year I don't write at all. You've done these poem a day things with me, Mary, so you've been witness to my writing "spurt."

One of my poetry mentors intentionally stopped writing for ten years. When he came back to the writing desk from his hiatus, he cranked out a new and selected and a whole bunch of new books plus material for more.

Anyway, we're in this for the "long haul," right? It's a calling, ya know? Don't beat yourself up if you're not writing (though I do all the time).

M. C. Allan said...

I don't mind the percolating phases, when I'm conscious of them. The ones that scare me are the *blank* phases when my brain seems to be generating nothing but thoughts about bills to pay and dinners to make ... which may be percolation, but I'm not always aware that they are. I always suspect that they are permanent, and that I will never again write anything I'm remotely happy about.

Fine line between percolation and losing steam ...

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