Tuesday, January 30, 2007

On Intent, Occasion & Poetic Handicaps

I haven’t been writing much poetry lately. Yes there have been distractions – plenty of them actually. But that hasn’t stopped me before from waxing poetic or at the very least trying to. At times in the past, I’ve even been a furtive poet - when I couldn’t for the life of me find the time to sit down and write. It’s sort of like having sex with one’s partner when the children are constantly around – you’ve got to be an opportunist if you’re going to get anything done. So what’s different this time?

Well this is one of the first times that I haven’t been involved in a poetry workshop. This activity in and of itself usually was conducive to the conditions that I needed to write poetry. I guess I thrive on the camaraderie and competitiveness that we associate with these venues. Blogging has taken its toll on whatever poetic predisposition that I can muster at any one point in time. You see I suffer from a poetic handicap. I do not work well in a vacuum. I should and I know that many of you seem to flourish on your own, but I don’t.

There’s no one for me to measure myself to. There is no benchmark to reach or supercede. My problem entirely – I know. Which leads me to the following question: Why is it that intent and occasion seem to be negatively correlated? When intent is present – occasion does not present itself; and conversely when you’ve got nothing better to do you couldn’t write a real poem even if your life depended on it.


Collin said...

I have mixed feelings about workshops and what is produced in them. Although I've taken part in many, I can only think of one poem generated that I thought was good enough for submission.

Do you have ideas for poems? Or are you just momentarily drained? Or do you just not have time to sit down and create? When my well runs dry, I watch movies, read novels, or read the NY Times. There is usually something in there that will spark an idea that leads to a rough draft.

Nick said...

Believe me Collin, I have mixed feelings about workshops too and I think I've voiced some of those concerns here on this blog. But I just find that in a workshop the atmosphere is more conducive for me to write poetry. I dunno...it just seems as if I feed off of the energy. I've always been a parasite at heart. ;-)

I'm drained at the moment from a legal battle that was work-related. Now that that's over - I hope that I'll get back into the groove. Hope that the well hasn't run dry!

Collin said...

I'm sure the well is filling up even as I write this. You just gotta get back on the horse. Sorry to hear work has been such a bitch.

Anonymous said...

Get up every morning before anyone else in the house is awake, and sit your ass in the chair for an hour. You don't have to write. Just sit there. For me, this brutally simplistic tactic blow the whole intent/occasion dichotomy to smithereens. :)

Anonymous said...

Blows, that is.

Nick said...

Thanks for commiserating, Collin. I'm workin' on it - getting back on the proverbial horse that is - hoping that my muse will be right there with me to boot.

Robert, appreciate the suggestion -I'll give it a whirl. Grazie.

John Gallaher said...

Summer is usually the least productive time for me. All that time . . . and so little to show for it.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to sound unsympathetic; I've wrestled all the demons as well. But in the end the most profound conversation I've ever had that actually ends productively sounds like this: "Ass, meet my friend chair. Chair, meet my ass. Comfy, gentlemen? Good. Let's write."

Prosaic. But it gets poems written.

And if you don't believe me, try William Stafford:

"Writing blocks? I don't believe in them ... I've never experienced anything like that. I believe the so-called "writing block" is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance. I can imagine a person beginning to feel that he's not able to write up to the standard he imagines the world has set for him. But to me that's surrealistic. The only standard I can rationally have is the standard I'm meeting right now. Of course I can write. Anybody can write. People might think that their product is not worthy of the person they assume they are. But it is ... you should be more willing to forgive yourself. It really doesn't make any difference if you're good or bad today. The assessment of the product is something that happens after you've done it. You should simply go ahead and do it. And do it, I might add, without being critical."

Nick said...


Unfortunately, - or perhaps fortunately for the reader :-) - I have never been profuse when it comes to writing poetry. And I don't really have a particular period where writing becomes problematic or stymied. Usually ideas for tropes will present themselves on an everyday basis and it is up to me whether I act upon them. This is the first time that I remember when this process has ceased to be a daily occurrence regardless of "intent and occasion".


No offense taken, I apologize if my last response to your post sounded terse. Poetic conceptualization does not usually occur - at least in my case - in a staged manner. Although, I do not doubt that for most writers sitting in front of a tabula rasa forces their muse's hand, it has not worked for me but instead it becomes like the insomniac's nightmare where a point is reached where thinking about the mechanics of falling asleep is what inevitably prevents them from doing so.

I guess I have been blessed because I haven't had to really think about the actual mechanics of writing poetry before (and no I do not mean the employment of the elements of poetry) but the actual physical putting pen to paper or pixel to monitor. There are many other places that I'd rather be "creatively" speaking.

I envy the writer who is able to sit down just do it.... Or like my wife says, "Maybe this is a good thing!"

Anonymous said...

Hey Nick-

Sorry to hear it's such a struggle.

I wonder if maybe, like the insomniac, your standards are still too high. Maybe lying down is a form of resting, even if it is not sleep. I know I enjoy the sense of progress that comes with writing crap more than I enjoy having not written at all... but you know you best.

In any case, here's a poem for you. I just wrote it. No idea where the inspiration came from:

So much depends upon
a blinking cursor
in the upper left
of a glowing screen.

Here's to all our muses getting drunk together one night and letting all their best lines slip. Cheers!

Nick said...

Re: Here's to all our muses getting drunk together one night and letting all their best lines slip.

As long as it's not on Thursday night or Friday night - my Muse works at Walmart on those nights. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Everybody's gotta make ends meet...