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 Ã 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