FOR WHEN YOU’RE IN A RUT OR JUST PLAIN FEELING WEIRD
So, I’ve been in a poetry writing rut as of late. This, of course, makes it difficult to blog about poetry. I am smack dab in the middle of revising my thesis (a collection of poems, for you non-MFA’ers who might be envisioning footnotes and Excel spreadsheets), and it’s making me question everything: why I write; how sound my judgment is when it comes to what is good and what is bad and what is passable; if I want to write things that may very well just be “passable” (and it’s impossible to tell, since I doubt my own judgment); where to draw the line in torturing myself and the poem and just make the decision to file it in my “Thesis YES” Dropbox folder…
BUT ENOUGH ABOUT ME. The point is: because I’ve been disillusioned with my “old stuff” that I am trying to “ameliorate”, I’ve been doing a whole lot of weird, experimental creation. What Biden might call malarkey. Sorry, is that internet joke a month too late? Does it even make sense in this context? I JUST DON’T KNOW ANYMORE. My experimentations are part subconscious experiments à la Dada (i.e. throw cut-up words from a newspaper in a bag, take out each cutting, copy the words in the order they leave the bag, voila! “The poem will resemble you.”) and part highly-specialized Lulu mania (don’t worry, copyright in progress), but they’re helping me remember why I got involved with this poetry business in the first place and also making me realize how truly weird I am. Which I knew already, but it’s nice to be reminded. Here are some weirdo poetry writing methods I’ve tried that might pique your experimental interest, should you find yourself in a similarly rutty position:
1. I’ve got subscriptions to both Harper’s and The New Yorker, and I’m about 6 months behind on reading either. My self-hatred on that count is another post for another time. What I’ve been doing is this:
-Cut one word or phrase of my choice out from each page of magazine
-Use half dried up glue stick to glue in notebook
-As I go along, try to look for words or phrases that will go with previous words or phrases in poem, also arranging line lengths as desired
-Type up on the computer, closing the gaps between any particularly confusing logical leaps and modifying for form’s sake
-IT’S A POEM!
2. I inherited a mean ass typewriter from my grandma. It’s a red Olivetti Valentine and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s also really fun to write on. There’s something satisfying about pecking and punching and breaking a sweat to write a line. Maybe that says something about my aggression issues or how out of shape I am. Whatevs. The point is, this is what I did:
-Type every word that comes into my head for a full page
-Allow phrases or images to enter as well, as long as they’ve popped into my head fluidly and in relation to the previous word
-Type up all the words on the computer
-Try to craft those logical bridges between thoughts, attitudes, images that come up in the poem
-Delete a lot of words
-IT’S A POEM!
3. Are you one of those people whose emotional and mental landscape changes on the hour, every hour? Me too. So this is what I did:
-I started (gasp!) carrying a notebook around
-On the :30 of every hour, I wrote a line
-Before I went to sleep, I typed it up
-I deleted a lot
-I titled the sexy thing with the date
This is also helpful for those of us trying to be more mindful in a general sense. I highly recommend. By the end of the day, you’ll have a good sense of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen—both inside and out.
I leave you with this: “Weirdness is such a turn on.” -- Dorothea Lansky