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.