Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Poetry by Design versus Poetry by Revelation

As you probably know, if you’ve visited this blog on more than one occasion I’m not a prolific poet, even at the best of creative times. In most instances - within the scope of the creative process – the poem strikes me like lightning – a flash of a phrase appears and then once the blinding effect fades (and my poetic eyes adjust to the light) the rest of the poem emerges as bits of a receding ship refusing to remain submerged.

Oddly enough, this is usually the rule rather than the exception. Of course there is always the editing (the lesser god of poetry) that must take its perfunctory course. But by and large poems coalesce almost immediately - emerging in full-bodied form from the outset.

So when I took on the NaPoWriMo challenge, I really was slitting my poetic wrists. To be perfectly honest with you I didn’t think that I was going to make it. But a month and about 30 terrible poems later I was still alive… poetically speaking. In retrospect it’s interesting to note that some decent tropes did surface. But it is difficult for me to write “poetry by design”. However, I know that most poets routinely planify the creative poetic process (i.e. for poetry collections, a series of poems etc...) .

In your experience does the poem that you create by design stack up favorably to the poem that comes to you via inspiration? Or is this, in effect, a moot question?


Shann Palmer, blog admin said...

Kind of a moot question, methinks- I do believe it's important for me to keep writing on a regular basis (and I tell students so).

By keeping the skills sharp, the craft crafty, when that blinding perfect phrase/idea pops into my head I have the facility to twirl it onto the page with some sense of style. The rewrite is still a necessity, of course (though one of my best poems took only two word changes) but the foundation is strong enough to carry the burden of whatever I've built.


Nick said...

Writing on a regular basis is where I fail poetry and my poetry fails me.

Shann Palmer, blog admin said...

well, I'm currently engaged in an exercise I'm trying to make viable (not crap). I'm writing a poem for dancers-

I may post it later for comments.

Sandra said...

I've been thinking a LOT about this, because I've been pondering doing a second, self-imposed round of NaPoWriMo this fall.

Here's the thing: these days, I either go through the rigor of writing a poem a day (for April, or at a colony), or else I go for weeks (!) without drafting. That doesn't mean I won't write eventually, but when I do it is only because I really "need" to--meaning the poems tend to be more biographical, and from an outpouring of emotion.

Whereas, with the imposed daily writing, I find myself playing around more with craft and humor.

There's a value to both modes. But seeing as I'm in the mood to send out (and respond to some solicitations), I'd like to have the well of new work generated by something like NaPoWriMo. Usually I go to a colony around this time of year, but I couldn't this year because of a new job--and man, do I miss being tucked away in Vermont or New York or somewhere green.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

For me- poetry by design, no; poetry that overwhelms me, yes.

Nick said...


That's an interesting distinction that you make there:

poetry by design: with the imposed daily writing, I find myself playing around more with craft and humor.

poetry by inspiration: the poems tend to be more biographical, and from an outpouring of emotion.

By the way if I wrote the kind of poetry that you wrote in April I'd make every month NaPoWriMo. ;-)


Yes of course - it must be overwhelmingly good however you slice it.

Jordan Reynolds said...

I often struggle to write when I find myself lost in "non-important" studies (i.e. the Spanish textbook that I have to read for my summer school course, the statistics textbook, etc). However, when I read great (and even mediocre) poetry and literature I find I can write myself into a corner! In these instances I would have to say that poems come to me at the decisive stroke of some muse, but isn't there some design involved in reading and responding?

To sum up, I would have to say that what I consider to be my "best poems" began, as you mentioned, with some word or phrase. I am not against design at all, but in using that strategy I think you can sometimes find yourself thought out of the divinely original rather too quickly for my tastes.

Jordan Reynolds

Nick said...

Re: "...but isn't there some design involved in reading and responding?"

Yes! But IMHO there is no design involved in how the reader will respond or how the poem will resonate with any particular reader at any particular time.