Sunday, June 17, 2012

Poetry as process

I really admire people who educate themselves outside of an institution or any formal setting. My own attempts to study poetry is uneven and any progress I make is unquantifiable. There are a lot of resources out there, I know: books and websites, videos and recordings, interviews, how-to books, and the poetry itself. But with nobody to tell you how you're doing, it feels like swimming in a dark ocean.

One website I've found is called How a Poem Happens, where poems are offered along with short interviews with the authors about their process. I've always been fascinated with other writers' process, as if by replicating their experiences, I, too, can make a poem happen. One of the poems I liked in the website is called SESSION BEGINNING IN SUNLIGHT by Gibbons Ruark:

The day’s too warm for the tart smoke of a turf fire,
Though dust motes in the sunlight are a kind of smoke,
The brass is polished, the stained-glass panels make
A gossipy row of snugs along the bar.
A shadowy hand. The fluent stick on the taut
Rim of the bodhran summons a ramrod dancer.
Suddenly deft fingers flying on the slender
Whistle. Tin. The tenor banjo’s picking out of thought,
The gaiety of flutes evaporates our cares. 
One fiddle. Two. Something come apart is mending.
Heat lightning. Night coming on. Soon there will be stars
And strangely in the dark the lark ascending.
Here’s a health to these harmonious Irregulars:
Let this reel unwind the music’s only ending.


I still never quite know why a poem catches my eye and ear and mind. That's the beauty of poetry for me; the uncertainty of the text and of my own responses. It's very different somehow from my prose choices, which are often formulaic fantasy/sci-fi books; safe and comforting. It's not that I look for dangerous poems. But I feel like I'm open to a different sort of experience, rather than when I am flying through a story rushing towards the end. Going back to a line or two, to a whole poem, is like a small but elaborate meal where you savor every bite and never forget the occasion.

The music and imagery in this poem is really strong, and the sonnet form is subtle but effective. I very rarely read rhymed poetry, but maybe I just need to find ones like these.

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