05 June 2009

Barbara Guest

[from Barbara Guest's Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing, Kelsey Street, 2003]

You enter the poem like Ulysses embarking on a "beautiful voyage."

The rules are inside your head.      They belong to you.      As you grow along with poetry you learn there are certain things the tribe cannot do (not rules) and you cannot do if you are to maintain your best position within the poem.

When in trouble depend upon imagination.

Picasso, when facing his inquisitors: "Subject matter? You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."

To translate this sensitive remark (to my way of thinking): the poem should not be programmatic, or didactic, or show-off.     But another way is to go inside the poem itself and     be in the dark     at the beginning of the journey. Here, with a vague idea (as Picasso suggested) of what to write,
     and I am trembling     am trembling with the excitement

         This trembling is a good idea, because it means
you are not exactly in charge. Ulysses learned, to his dismay and once to his delight,

         his ship would encounter circumstances     well beyond his control
Magic and spells     would victimize
     poetry entering its own domain
     may (for a time) cast its spell over the poet

you, also, are going to to entertain within the poem circumstances over which you must eventually take control, but at first you have no control

if you are a good poet to begin with you have an idea and you know enough
         about where your objectives are, but someone here allows
the poem's powers, even as magic entered the sails of Ulysses, and not by
         didacticism of your own will     as you enter the great seas or
                 little bay of your poem.

what Picasso said about subject matter:
"It's always something else in the end."

While the poem is in the making it changes as thoughts change. There are certain rhythmical tides and swells on this voyage when the poem gains control of its shape and enters its own rhythmical waters; times when the poem withdraws into itself/ and as you coast 'musing' remember the rocks upon which the Sirens sang . . . .

                 when the poem can be, I believe, in most danger.

What is so fascinating about poetry is: how many encounters we meet with on the way of its writing.
     And the explicit will of the poem, until it releases.    the myth: of itself

"the poem wrote itself." when the identify of the poem is so fixed the poem is willing to trust itself to the poet.

     before the poem can "write itself"

amid currents: "reality" and multi-identificational
                        objectives / Body, Mind, Soul /

                        the dark identity of a poem must be encountered

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