Sunday, 16 May 2010

A Poem is a Commotion

On Wednesday night the American poet Peter Gizzi gave a reading at UEA. I had not heard of him before I got the email inviting us to the reading but promptly looked him up on the inter-web and read a couple of poems that were really good. He was really inspiring and afterwards talked a little about writing - one of the things that he said was that "a poem is a commotion" which was really similar to something our tutor said last term - she said  that "a poem is a disturbance". When she first said it I was quite resistant to the idea but over the recent weeks I have endeavoured to observe where it is that my poems actually come from, where they begin.  In doing this I have begun to realise that she is right, often there is a physical disturbance or agitation that comes before a poem. The disturbance will come and then there will be an urgent need to write - like a mini birth I guess. Sometimes it can feel a bit like the feeling that you get when you are about to be sick (but without the actual nausea). Or it can feel like when you are building up to a big cough or a sneeze.  It is a very odd sensation and it often arises after I have read something inspiring or if I have been to a reading. But at other times it comes if I am on a journey (walk, train, car etc.) or in a new place. Sometimes it happens when I am simply walking along the street and over the years I have learnt to stop, get out my notebook and pen and write it down - because otherwise the idea is usually gone by the time I reach my destination. It's like when an idea comes just as you are dropping off to sleep - you might think that you will remember it in the morning but usually you don't. Sleep somehow seems to flush those ideas out however great and fully formed they seem at the time.

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