Monday, February 8, 2010

Let the Heart Babble

Here is another excerpt from my thoughts in the Rooster Moans workshop (see previous post). A tangential discussion broke out, spontaneously, about whether to censor or encourage the gush of unrefined emotion when drafting a poem.


(From the workshop "Poetry, Politics & Demagogy," Week One)

I have to admit, a great deal of awkward and over-dramatic emotion seeps into my drafts. My strategy has been to write freely and copiously, often six drafts a week. In this way important emotion is validated, and hopefully gets tempered through editing into a chrysalis of sorts.

Yes, most drafts don’t get to the stage of beautiful writing; but there is a ‘freedom of voice’ and a validation of feelings and of my being and all its flaws.

I guess for me, poetry should be about validating the heart, even if the expression is clumsy at first. I think it best to work with inner emotions, even if sentimental, not censor them--let them run like children in your words.

I don't like the pedagogic style of trying to stifle gushes of emotion in the tyro, or, for that matter, the advanced practitioner. Some of my best poems came from writing like mad and paring it down and refining later.

Another metaphor, not sure if it’s good: Sentiment is raw earthy form, a blend of anguish, love and all the others -- something needs to be mined out of the ore, cut into a jewel.

To get to the jewel, you must delve into the raw material.

That might be my tactic.

What I’ve learned is that I’m not really the author of my poems--the mind is more complex than just an “I.” To write a good poem requires that the dream-making part of the mind get involved, which is beyond the self.

By sharing the act of writing with unruly emotions and whatever forces unleash them, I can sometimes get to powerful phrases like this, from your poem, so heartwrenching:

“tape stretches like wings over his mouth”



  1. Excellent post, I think there is too much post modern fashionable poetry that has had all the emotion leached out. At the same time there's too much amateur stuff that is pure emotion with little poetry. The balance is the essential thing in the completed poem

  2. Crafty Green!

    I very much value your comments. You have been a great inspiration to me, helping me develop as a poet and now also as a blogger.

    It's all about balance, isn't it? But balance is not a simple half-and-half. How much more complex a sculpture, seemingly infinite in angles and twists, is the one that somehow achieves a resonance of well-lived life and expression.

    (kind of like Aristotle's Golden Mean, but so much more--he was hideously limited by his time and culture)