Thursday thoughts on writing, falling and Julia Vinograd

The great poet, Julia Vinograd, the “Bubble-Lady” of Berkley, noted in an interview that was published last year, that writing poetry, when it works, “…is a lot like flying.” Because, when it doesn’t work, it is a “…lot like falling”. Ms Vinograd, who has been writing poetry since late 50’s, and is the author of no less than 59 books of verse, should certainly know something about the creative process involved in writing a poem. I am thinking of her words today as I peruse a folder on the hard drive of my laptop called poems_unfin. These poems are ones that I started but didn’t finish. They remain unfinished, not because I do not have the wherewithal to complete them, but because the process was becoming, as Ms Vinograd says, a lot like falling. Anyone who has written anything for public consumption (poem, short story, novel, blog post, etc.) knows the feeling, and when you are falling you know it.

Poetry projects, I think, are particularly vulnerable to rapid abandonment due to the very short runway they allow the author. The type of poems that I enjoy writing (and reading) are typically in the vicinity of 550 – 1300 words – and that is not a lot of room for error. Compared to say, a 30,000 word novella, a typical poem does allow you a lot of space to say what you want to say, so you’ve either got to say it quickly and say it very well, or just forget about it. Unlike novels, short stories, or even non-fiction work, there isn’t another chapter to distract you when your motivation drags.

It is worthwhile to note that there are a good many more poems in my poems_unfin folder that reside in my poems_COMPLETE folder. For this reason, often I find myself returning to my unfinished work and giving it another go, but I will be honest, usually it doesn’t work that way. Some poems must remain unwritten until the chemistry between subject and writer comes together and the poem takes flight. Sometimes, well most times really, that doesn’t happen.

So this is what I am thinking about this afternoon at EEOTPB. In addition to several poems that have made it into my poems_COMPLETE folder, I plan to post more about the writing process, and what mine is like, but more importantly I hope to hear from you, about you. I have communicated with some fine poets and writers since I have been blogging here and I’d like to know what makes it all come together for you. Is it a particular time of day, a certain chair, a certain pen, a laptop in the park, or an old Smith-Corona in the basement? Do you prefer classical music playing on the stereo (headphones, yes or no), jazz, kick ass rock, or maybe you prefer stone cold silence. How about drunk or sober (don’t laugh as many have tried both. For me the latter is the only way to go, but the great Charles Bukowski preferred the former, although he did confess to writing a few good poems while in the clutches of a ‘black hangover’).

In closing, I shall link to one of my favorite poems by Ms Vinograd here.

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8 thoughts on “Thursday thoughts on writing, falling and Julia Vinograd

  1. I enjoyed this post of yours, Ed….I haven’t read or responded in a while since it seems that ‘urgent life/deadlines/meetings/paperwork/school kids’ could get any writing/poem/thought or reflection right out of you!’I am in awe and grateful that you keep going….maybe in my “rocking chair years” (approaching too quickly) i can get back to some of the more rewarding aspects of this ‘being’ that your writing suggests…Since your wife is petsitting, you may have some more time!

  2. I am in awe of anyone who can write poetry. It takes me thousands of words to say what a poet can say in ten. I look at poetry as a standard for novel writing: to make me realize the importance of each and every word. I fall a lot, as you say in this wonderful post. I used to have guilt about not meeting the expected author requirement of writing every day. Until I realized that what works for me is letting that cold water sit in the teapot on the stove and slowly come to a simmer, and then a boil. I need a few days to build anticipation. Not to come up with what to write about, but to build to that moment when I am excited, thrilled, ready to sit and let the words free. I have to dam them up before I can flood the paper. Wonderful post.

    • Thanks for reading Lisa, and for taking time to comment. I like your analogy regarding the tea pot. Whenever I have an idea for any creative endeavor I find I have to let it simmer for awhile. I need to go for a few walks, a drive, or even do a little gardening while I think about it. Writing everyday should not be a hard and fast rule. Most of us don’t do anything every day except eat and sleep. Please stop by again.

  3. I have a ratty old, held-together-with-tape folder of my precious, teen-aged angst written poetry – all written while drunk on the drama of a Romeo and Juliet Existence – LOL

    I currently have a “Writing” folder on the computer – with 7 in-process books in it – one, which I actually considered publishing last year still sits waiting for me to decide if it really is done or not – –

    I write mostly when sober, though have been caught unawares by the perfect ‘scene’ while imbibing and dutifully open up the file and type it out – Next day, I go back to edit/clean-up and think, “What the heck is this?!? Did I try typing it in Greek?!?” LOL

    • You would not believe how much work I have in my wip folder. Lots of stuff — probably most of it worthless. But me — I write pretty much sober these days — a couple of glasses of vino and it’s off to the tv. When I work I need caffeine.

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