Thursday, February 3, 2011

From Inspiration to Realisation

In my first post I want to reflect on the creative process and to think about where poetic inspiration comes from and how it is formally shaped into a poem. I would like to ask fellow poets about their own approaches to writing poetry and to open up a discussion on this subject. Without setting up hierarchies in general, I am often struck by the fact, in my own work, poems that spring from what Wordsworth called the 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling' tend to be fuller and rounder than those which are culled from an idea that is then crafted and redrafted into poetry. When the muse strikes powerfully, and I'm grappling for a scrap of paper, I tend to be happy with what appears on the page. It usually needs minimal revision and it is never jettisoned in exasperation. It becomes a realisation of something that felt universal and true in a moment of clarity. Unfortunately, there is no law governing when these periods of intensity occur - you can't really trigger them (though, in Ireland, whiskey seems to have aided many of our best writers!) - and that's what I'm curious about here. What do other writers think about the process from inspiration to shaping the draft? Do you also sometimes feel that the poems you write, which evolve from an idea, wordplay, wit, etc. can feel less substantial than those that come in those flashes of a kind of profound insight? Again, I'm not making a case for the superiority of the so-called 'given' poem, or dissing the work we graft on a daily basis, but would like to open a discussion as inspiration can be a very personal and individual subject. From my own experience I have found that there is little discussion about this - perhaps because it may have implications for the quality of our corpora. While I am all for the democratisation of the 'profession' of poetry, I often wonder if the centuries-old concept of the 'Orphic' poet seer has become redundant in our contemporary society. Is it really such an anachronism? I appreciate that I am getting into metaphysically loaded terrain here which is dangerously analogous to Roland Barthes' arugment about the ‘work’ versus the ‘text’. Maybe I am simply saying that poetry which comes from ideas can indeed be on a par with that which springs from those moments of insight, but it tends to require a bit more hard work. Do other readers and writers agree? Where do you gather the inspiration for your best work from? Perhaps this is not the case for some of you and you would, rather, agree with Oscar Wilde's dictum that 'all bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.' I'm posing a genuine question which, hopefully, does not have any perceived air of 'elitism' about it. I'm curious about how other writers feel about these processes, where they find inspiration, etc. I've found that each poet's practice is different and individual so I welcome your thoughts! Theo Dorgan has written an insightful piece on the process of inspiration, based on the work of Robert Graves, where poetry issues from 'otherwhere'. Check it out here   Emily, 3rd Feb 2011

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