I've been struggling mightily with a poem the last few days. Today I spent time sitting at the dining room table staring at the errant piece, getting nowhere (again!). So I decided to give up and read some poetry instead, hoping for a respite from my frustration.
I went to my bookshelf and found Clayton Eshleman's The Aranea Constellation (Rain Taxi, 1998). It's a chapbook of poetics that I don't remember getting; I'm sure someone sent it to me, but I don't know who. So I opened it up, and unbelievably, I immediately came across a different way to look at my problem with my poem.
I'm not going to share that with you today (don't want to sap the power from it till the poem is done), but here are two passages from the chapbook that also struck a chord:
Quoting Anton Ehrenzweig: "Any creative search, whether for a new image or idea, involves the scrutiny of an often astronomical number of possibilities. The correct choice between them cannot be made by a conscious weighing up of each single possibility cropping up during the search; if attempted it would only lead us astray. A creative search resembles a maze with many nodal points. From each of these points many possible pathways radiate in all directions leading to further crossroads where a new network of high - and by-ways comes into view. Each choice would be easy if we could command an aerial view of the entire network of nodal points and radiating pathways still lying ahead. This is never the case. If we could map out the entire way ahead, no further search would be needed. As it is, the creative thinker has to make a decisions about this route without having the full information needed for his choice. This dilemma belongs to the essence of creativity."
And Eshleman's original writing: "There is an archetycal poem, and its most ancient design is probably the labyrinth. One suddenly cuts in, leaving the green world for the apparent stasis and darkness of the cave. The first words of a poem propose and nose forward toward a confrontation with what the writer is only partially aware of, or may not be prepared to address until it emerges, flushed forth by digressions and meanders. Poetry twists toward the unknown and seeks to realize something beyond the poet's initial awareness. What it seeks to know might be described as the unlimited interiority of its initial impulse. If a "last line," or "conclusion," occurs to me upon starting to write, I have learned to put it in immediately, so it does not hang before me, a lure, forcing the writing to skew itself in order that this "last line" continues to make sense as such."