"Poet and Pholosopher" (1958) - Nikos Engonopoulos, Photo by Tilemahos_E's, From Creative Commons, © February 21, 2009
Musings on the Origins of Poetry
“Ordering a man to write a poem is like commanding a pregnant woman to give birth to a red-haired child.” ― Carl Sandburg
April is National Poetry Month and I am excited to participate all month long by posting a different poem each day on Facebook and Twitter, and by posting a new poem weekly on my poetry blog, Poetry by Robbie Pruitt, at www.robbiepruitt.com.
National Poetry Month has me thinking about how I write poetry and how I see poetry. Where does a poem come from? How are poems inspired? As I have been thinking about this, it is interesting what answers begin to emerge. In this post, I will explore the variety of motivations and inspirations that yield the poetry that I write.
One of my favorite poets is Carl Sandburg. I was inspired to write poetry very early on through reading Carl Sandburg’s poems. I also identify with much of what Sandburg said about writing poetry and can identify with a lot of what he said about poetry and his inspiration to write poems. I will begin each musing on the origins of a poem with a quote or idea from Carl Sandburg or another poet or artist and will then share my own thoughts, reflections, delights, adventures, struggles, or meditations about poetry.
An Idea of a Poem
“Nothing happens unless first a dream.” ― Carl Sandburg, The Complete Poems
Before I set out to write a poem, there is usually an inspired emotion or thought. Sometimes I look at landscapes in nature, a photo, a person, a scripture, a song, an idea, or a thought and a poem begins to come to mind. Other times it is a conversation or a mood or emotion that sparks inspiration for a poem.
A Structure of a Poem
“I'm an idealist. I don't know where I'm going but I'm on the way.” ― Carl Sandburg
This idea that “I don't know where I'm going but I'm on the way” begins to sum up the feelings and the thoughts that I have as I begin to write a poem. As I begin to write the poem, I am not too sure where I am going with it. Rarely do I have the whole poem in mind when I begin to write.
The Title of a Poem
“Now I am here - now read me - give me a name.” ― Carl Sandburg
Sometimes I begin writing a poem with a line or a title and just begin. Sometimes I write the end first and then the beginning and then the title. Other times, I write the poem from beginning to end and then add the title at last. It is as if I am following the poem’s lead.
The Content of a Poem
“Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come.” ― Carl Sandburg
Poems often do not have the effect that I wish they had on me, or on others. They are written, they “give war,” but no one comes to meet their challenge, sometimes not even me.
The Poems That I Do Not Understand
“I've written some poetry I don't understand myself” ― Carl Sandburg
Like Sandburg, I have often had this experience. I have written poetry that I do not understand. It came from somewhere, but where, I do not know. Sometimes I understand the poem completely and other times I have no idea what I have written, what it means, or why I wrote it.
The Poetry of the Everyday
“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” –Robert Frost
Life happens and so do the poems that follow. Like Robert Frost asserted, a poem can have its origins in everyday emotions feelings, injustices, and loneliness, as well as the poetic muse of love. This is often the case with poems I write. Life happens and then poetry. To say it another way, life is poetic and I write it down.
The Poetry of Discovery
“Writing a poem is discovering.” –Robert Frost
Certainly there is discovery in poetry. The composer of the poem is lead into discovery as well as the reader. I discover a lot about myself and about my subjects when I write poetry.
Here are some other poetic musings that I’m contemplating this month:
Poetry on Accident
“A lot happens by accident in poetry.” –Howard Nemerov
Poetry is Essence
“Write what should not be forgotten.” –Isabel Allende
The Poetry of Naming
A poets work is to name the unnamable.” –Salman Rushdie
Poetry: The Dancing Echo
“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” –Carl Sandburg
The Adventure of Poetry
“Writing is an adventure.” –Winston Churchill
The Poetry in Listening
“The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.” –Jean Cocteau