I hate writing poetry.
I love finishing a poem, reading it over, then letting other people see it. I love standing up in front of an audience and performing the poem. Basically I love being a poet, with all the trimmings.
But the actual writing of the poem, the struggle with my subconscious to bring forth meaning according to arbitrary rules of metre and rhyme – that’s torture!
The problem with writing poetry (or a play, or my blog), is that the really creative stuff is done by my subconscious; but I have no access to its inner workings. I have to wait, grinding my heels, until it feels inclined to throw me a line, like a lord throwing a bone to his wolfhound. When this happens, I get a sudden, transitory, lifting of the spirits, and another piece to add to the edifice that is my slowly emerging poem. But in solving one part of the puzzle, it creates another. How do I find a rhyme for the line I’ve just been given? I then worry at the line, trying to match it with different words, trying different word orders, or trying to work backwards from the line I’ve got to create a whole verse, without too many ands & buts. After struggling with the English language (and sometimes Scots), and forcing it into a rough shape, my subconscious will then recast the whole thing in one fell swoop, ignoring all I’ve worked on, into a thing of elegance.
(You can really go off some people, can’t you?)
And all the while, the rest of the poem lies ahead of me, uncharted and unfathomed. And I have a constant fear that maybe this time I won’t be able to produce anything worth putting out there. But always, like the hero in a cliffhanger, my subconscious secretes another morsel of literary honey, just to entice me further. It does need me : they’re my fingers on the keyboard!
I get more excited when I get to the last verse – the verse that has to tie everything together with the punch line, or money quote. I know that the bulk of the writing is behind me, and I can relax a bit which seems to help my sub’s communications get through that little bit easier.
And then I’m finished.
I sit back with a big smile. Of course, there are still minor edits to do, but I’m in control there. It’s the writing that I’m not in full control over. I just have to follow where my subconscious takes me.