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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Poems as Problems

I tend to use problem-solving as a metaphor for life. It happens without any conscious decision-making on my part. For example, when I turn the three-sided faucet valve to shut off the hose, I can't help wondering which placement of my fingers on the three sides would turn the faucet off most quickly (I mean which two sides should I grasp this turn, and the next, and the next), with least energy expenditure. I have my own way of drying dishes which I am convinced saves time by about 10%. All these thoughts come into my head unbidden; problem-solving is simply the paradigm from within which I see the world (and within is, I think, the operative word here).

Recently I read a quote by Pema Chodron, the Buddhist priest, about how not everything is a problem to be solved; some things simply were. Immediately I knew this was something I needed to think about, almost a problem for me to solve--how to stop seeing everything in terms of problems. But first I wondered if it really was such a problem that I see things in terms of problems. (And the logical inconsistencies in this argument are so much fun to think about! If it is a problem that I think in terms of problems, then it's a problem that I'm thinking about it as a problem, ad infinitum. And if it's not a problem, if it simply is, then I have to (get to) leave in place my problem-solving paradigm because it's not a problem! This is what I mean about within being the operative word.)

I also use problem-solving as a metaphor, or perhaps a paradigm, for writing poems. I am always thinking of finding the right form or the best word or a breakthrough effect as a problem for me to solve. I had consciously thought that this way of seeing my writing was helpful--it encourages creative solutions. But now I wonder if by setting out the parameters of what I'm going to solve means that I circumvent the process which would allow me to make those poetic leaps I admire in other poets. Or maybe I can do both--solve what I think I'm solving while my unconscious makes those leaps.

So that's what I've been thinking about.

And what I'd like to know from you, if you care to comment, is whether you have an overarching metaphor or paradigm for looking at life, and/or your writing process.


Shawnte Orion said...

I am often struck by the subtle ridiculousness of the world around me, although it's not always blatant enough to make other people take notice.

I try to call attention to those fascinations, but I frequently end up magnifying or exaggerating that aspect until it reaches a level of ridiculousness that nobody can ignore.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Hi Shawnte,

Good to hear from you again. So you see the world as absurd, do you? I'd love to have an example, if you have time. (I see the world as absurd too, but probably not to the extent that you do.)