My need is for poetry

October 31, 2019

My need is for poetry,
the burning magic of words
that awaken unguessed at emotion –
and understanding,
sometimes only partial.
I need poetry,
its vivid colours firing imagination
and opening the souls of us all.

P

I imagine I hear people in picture frames
Whispering secrets across the room,
I watch Redheaded woodpeckers startling
Timid sparrows near the bird feeder,
I see shadows from sycamore trees casting odd
Visions of past winters on rooftops,
I observe pairs of Red Shouldered Hawks soaring
High in the heavens unrestricted by earthly wiles,
I close my eyes and see brief images of a spring day
As winter’s visions fade into eternity.
And my mind is forming new visions of red and
Yellow roses in the herb garden for spring.

James G. Piatt

Writing before dawn began as a necessity – I had small children when I first began to write and I needed to use the time before they said, Mama–and that was always around five in the morning. Many years later, after I stopped working at Random House, I just stayed at home for a couple of years. I discovered things about myself I had never thought about before. At first I didn’t know when I wanted to eat, because I had always eaten when it was lunchtime or dinnertime or breakfast time. Work and the children had driven all of my habits… I didn’t know the weekday sounds of my own house; it all made me feel a little giddy.

I was involved in writing Beloved at that time – this was in 1983–and eventually I realized that I was clearer-headed, more confident and generally more intelligent in the morning. The habit of getting up early, which I had formed when the children were young, now became my choice. I am not very bright or very witty or very inventive after the sun goes down.

Recently I was talking to a writer who described something she did whenever she moved to her writing table. I don’t remember exactly what the gesture was–there is something on her desk that she touches before she hits the computer keyboard–but we began to talk about little rituals that one goes through before beginning to write. I, at first, thought I didn’t have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee and watch the light come. And she said, Well, that’s a ritual. And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space I can only call nonsecular… Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transaction. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.

I tell my students one of the most important things they need to know is when they are at their best, creatively. They need to ask themselves, What does the ideal room look like? Is there music? Is there silence? Is there chaos outside or is there serenity outside? What do I need in order to release my imagination?

Toni Morrison
The Paris Review, Issue 128, 1993

where it could lead

July 9, 2019

I’ll have some idea or see something or an event will strike me in a certain way. I’ll string it along immediately and think of where it could lead and where it could go. I think of a story.

Daniel Handler
Lemony Snicket shares inspiration, advice for storytelling
The Stanford Daily 10th October 2013

You cannot write alone, no more than you can be alone inside your own poems. The muse is not only,  in contemporary vernacular, an inspirit but a facilitator…the acknowledged or unacknowledged antagonist… the opposition that creates the energy and story of the poem…the need and the means. It provides the imagination with context, and when all is said and done, the text itself. The freeness of our trees, the birdies of our birds, the pity of our forgiveness, the beauty of our longing, our paralysis, our prevarications, our palaver, all may saturate the colours and textures of our poems, but they are masks over the singular face of the archetype.

Stanley Plumly
Autobiography and Archetrype,

Genre fiction says: ‘Forget the gas bill. Forget the office politics. Pretend you’re a spy. Pretend you’re a courtesan. Pretend you’re the owner of a crumbling gothic mansion on this worryingly foggy promontory.’ Literary fiction says: ‘Bad luck. You’re stuck with who you are, just as these people are stuck with who they are. But use your imagination and you’ll see that even the most narrow, humdrum lives are infinite in scope if you examine them with enough care.’

Obviously, we all know men of 50 who have never paused to consider their own mortality, but I’ll wager that very few of them are reading Middlemarch.

I don’t mean that literary fiction is better than genre fiction, though I do prefer curling up with with an author such as A.M. Homes rather than Helen Fielding.  Nor do I mean that the distinction is a rigid one. On the contrary, some of the best novels – Jane Eyre, The Woman in White – have a foot in both camps. I mean only that novels can perform two functions and most perform only one.

Mark Haddon
B is for Bestseller

Lovecraft had, if nothing else, the consolation of his conviction that the tradition in and about which he wrote was timeless. The creators of the imaginative tale and their audience might be small, but they would always be. As insignificant as he was in the cosmic scheme of things, Lovecraft was not, and would never be, alone. To use his words in “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” “There will always be a certain small percentage of persons who feel a burning curiosity about unknown outer space, and a burning desire to escape from the prison-house of the known and the real into those enchanted lands of incredible adventure and infinite possibilities which dreams open up to us, and which things like deep woods, fantastic urban towers, and flaming sunsets suggest.” And it is to that “certain small percentage of persons” – in short, to us, dear reader – that Lovecraft continues to speak today.

Amy H. Sturgis
Art in its most essential sense: H P Lovecraft and the Imaginative tale

an alchemist of life

February 28, 2019

I would have preferred if you had loved me less and understood me more. But perhaps you didn’t love me enough, or didn’t have the imagination, madness, or balls to become an alchemist of life like I was, to spin gold out of the boredom and emptiness that surround us.

Margarita Karapanou
Rien ne va Plus
Trans. by Karen Emmerich

writing imaginative material

February 23, 2019

Find your own writing time. Everybody will have a slightly different time of day, I have yet to meet the person who thinks the early afternoon is good, but I expect there is someone out there who thinks that that’s a good idea.

For me it’s very early in the morning, partly because the house is quiet and partly because I feel I’m stealing a march on things and that makes me feel good.

I think there might be some kind of hook up between what happens in our minds when we’re asleep and writing imaginative material. I think good poems get written, as no doubt good paintings get painted, as a result of these two things coming together in an appropriate way.

Andrew Motion
Top 10 tips for being a successful poet

Writing off the Subject

February 21, 2019

A poem can be said to have two subjects, the initiating or triggering subject, which starts the poem or “causes” the poem to be written, and the real or generated subject, which the poem comes to say or mean, and which is generated or discovered in the poem during the writing. That’s not quite right because it suggests that the poet recognizes the real subject. The poet may not be aware of what the real subject is but only have some instinctive feeling that the poem is done.

Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the initiating subject. The poet puts down the title: “Autumn Rain.” He finds two or three good lines about Autumn Rain. Then things start to break down. He cannot find anything more to say about Autumn Rain so he starts making up things, he strains, he goes abstract, he starts telling us the meaning of what he has already said. The mistake he is making, of course, is that he feels obligated to go on talking about Autumn Rain, because that, he feels, is the subject. Well, it isn’t the subject. You don’t know what the subject is, and the moment you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain start talking about something else. In fact, it’s a good idea to talk about something else before you run out of things to say about Autumn Rain.

Don’t be afraid to jump ahead. There are a few people who become more interesting the longer they stay on a single subject. But most people are like me, I find. The longer they talk about one subject, the duller they get. Make the subject of the next sentence different from the subject of the sentence you just put down. Depend on rhythm, tonality, and the music of language to hold things together. It is impossible to write meaningless sequences. In a sense the next thing always belongs. In the world of imagination, all things belong. If you take that on faith, you may be foolish, but foolish like a trout.

Richard Hugo
Writing off the Subject
The Triggering Town