the poetic process

8 December, 2009

Last week in Poetics we were looking at the idea of the poetic process, which is where the majority of the quotes from my last post came from. It’s a fascinating area I think but of course we barely scratched the surface in the reading we did (Eliot, Mayakovsky, Poe, Bloom). I’m planning on writing my essay for the module on ideas of process and inspiration, but am currently scratching my head rather on where to start.

Our tutor suggested writing about a poet you like, and the obvious choice for me is Alice Oswald. I once read a fantastic piece by her about her own way of writing; sadly it was online and my link for it is broken, and I don’t seem to have my own copy of it. Disaster.

It’s not something I’ve ever really asked other writers/poets: how do you do it? For my part I’m very, very slow, and tend to let ideas gestate for a long time before I start writing. And then what I do write tends to need endless sifting and redrafting to get to what’s good within it. On those days when writing feels like pulling teeth, or at the very least like doing a magic trick behind your back in the dark, I find it heartening to look at old notebooks and see that some of my favourite poems started off as lumpen, prosy clichés.

The closest I get to ‘process’ I suppose is lots of magpie-like reading and thinking and thieving. Looking up words and the roots of words; in dictionaries of dreams and images (Brewer’s dictionary of phrase and fable is a favourite); stories from the Bible and from folklore… for the poem I’m working on at the moment (yes, it’s still this year’s advent piece – my third attempt) I’ve been delving into the Hebrew alephbet and ploughing, especially traditions around Plough Monday…

That said, although I like my poems to be full of ‘stuff’ they do also often spring from just one particular image or idea that will come to me, or an incident that demands to be thought through on the page. So I guess it’s some of one and some of the other. I do find the dictionaries a comforting place to start, though…

This post brought to you by a lot of freelance work and huge quantities of tea and biscuits

One Response to “the poetic process”

  1. […] ever. The wall next to me is covered in post-it notes as I try to thrash out the structure of my Poetics essay; there’s a big freelancing job that needs to be finished urgently; I’m still (!) […]

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