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Monday, October 21, 2013

Words that Cast Long Shadows

When the poem I have been working on suddenly revealed itself to be in form, my resulting rearrangements to satisfy the form included the trimming of certain lines where the poem was too verbose, as well as the panicking over stanzas that were missing requisite lines. I marked where more words and images were needed, and set the poem aside.

Later, when I came back to the poem and stared at the gaps, I suddenly remembered how certain words I had heard or read in the past few days seemed to speak to me, to demand my attention, to the point that I had jotted these words down in a notebook. I got out that notebook and saw the word "pinwheel". A good word, but it had nothing to do with my perforated poem. But wait--yes, it did. And suddenly my poem had a pinwheel in it. Creation myth was on the list, and soon that went in the poem as well, despite seeming at first glance to be not even tangentially related.

A few more list words worked their way into the poem, and the gaps were closed up, the poem finished.

At first I thought how weird it was that the words I had been culling from the universe earlier were just the words I needed now; it made me recall an image I had earlier this year, that inspiration is floating in the air all around us and we just have to pay enough attention to find it and pluck it out of the air. I don't really believe that inspiration exists a priori, despite that vision, and yet, here were the words I would need for my poem written in a notebook before they were needed, while tens of thousands of other words read and heard during the same time period had easily vanished from my mind.

But that's just the beauty of the unconscious. Either (in an unlikely scenario) my unconscious knew the very words I would need later because I had already begun the at-that-time-unstructured poem when I started the word list, or (more likely) my unconscious was merely identifying words that had deep resonance with me, words such that my interest in them would enable me to connect to them to whatever I was thinking about, because of the way the mind seeks connections, looks for patterns.

Whatever the reason, here's my take-away: words that catch my attention, words that make me say, "huh...." or "I haven't heard that word in awhile," in short words whose word-ness or very essence make me stop in my tracks for just a moment, those words should be written down; they will probably be useful to me very soon.


Tressa said...

I have a thing for blank books and always have at least one with me so I can jot down ideas, phrases, descriptions of something interesting, etc (and yes, what to pick up at the market after work).

I recently ended up using some of those phrases/ideas in a poem about stories that are waiting to be written.

Sooner or later, everything is useful at least once.


Jessica Goodfellow said...

Good advice, Tressa. I totally agree.

Robert said...

I'm generally too lazy/disorganized to keep a notebook but probably should consider trying to change that. It sounds like having those words at hand not only allowed you to close the gaps in your poem, but also provided an element of surprise, leading to connections you might not have thought have before.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Robert, There are probably a lot of different ways to heighten your own awareness of what resonates with you. A notebook is a good way for me because a lot of what resonates with me is word choice and the sounds of words. However a person who is more affected by visual imagery might keep a file of photos or a bulletin board...or whatever. Just being aware as much as possible of what images/words/etc. attract your attention or move you or cause you to wonder or think is the important thing.