Today’s subject is ‘inspiration.’ Where do poets get their inspiration? Inspiration forces poets to write, to say something important, and poetry is their only way to say it. There’s a power to poetry not found in any other art form. Each poet has their own way to access that inspiration, read, travel, write down their dreams, free-write, go for walks, give in to passions, listen for voices, etc. Poets may not be the only people who feel that ‘craziness’ but poets are the only ones to have an outlet.
The initial inspiration likely will be an image, line or idea, the art of poetry to accessing the craziness again to find the whole poem. This searching for the rest of the poem is where the language comes into play. A poet must be devoted to playing with language. The language is the physical artistic form that suggests more, more of it, more like it, etc.
I’ve had students who swore they didn’t want to read other poets because others will influence their own voice. Hah! Poets must read other poets. They must read the ancients to find the foundation of poetry, where it has been. They must read modern poetry to find out where poetry is going, but the major reason to read other poets is to find inspiration. Every time I read Wallace Steven’s Disillusionment of Ten O’clock with the lines “Catches tigers/in red weather.” I need to go write my own lines. Why are poets driven by a great poem? Perhaps it’s emulation. They climbed the mountain, I can too. More than likely, there’s something in the other’s poem that will free you, enable you to find something within yourself, inspire you. Poets become excited at seeing a new way to break a line, to use a word in a fresh way, to make a different type of transition, to find another way to evoke emotion, etc. It might be that the poem allows you to see a new way to use language, a new path to take.
Language doesn’t find new paths by itself, poets nudge it. One poet will take a step and that inspires another to take another step and thus eventually we’re on a new road. Just because you have been inspired once doesn’t mean you ever will again, but if you’ve written a poem, it means you know what to do with inspiration when you find it. Like rivers invite bridges, an exciting world invited poetry. The poet’s job is to be observant so that when inspiration comes they’re ready.
A part of inspiration, where ever you find it, is being observant. If you find inspiration in a poem, it was because you were observant on how the poem did what it did. If you found inspiration in a squirrel in the park, it was because you were observant in the squirrel’s behavior. If you write a poem about how your father yelled at you for not raking the leaves exactly as he specified, it was because at some point in your life you were observant to his behavior. And don’t think I mean just sight when I say, be observant. As I’ve said in other blog posting, all senses are important in being observant.
I don’t mean to demystify inspiration. I hope that’s not possible. Inspiration by being itself is mysterious. It has to be. Don’t try to define your inspiration, but when it comes up for air, observe it, study it, write it. Inspire the rest of us with your poem.
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