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spacer.gif   THE POETRY PROCESS: A DISCUSSION
Posted by : cj on Thursday, December 02, 2004 - 04:31 PM
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Chicago Poetry Archives: Click Headlines THE CREATIVE PROCESS
RITUALS, PATTERNS AND INSPIRATION
Skip intro., go directly to the responses

This is an open forum for discussion and comment. If you send us your stories, thoughts or opinions, we WILL post them here.

May's topic is The Process of Writing Poetry. What is YOUR process? When and how have your greatest poems come to you. Do you have any strange rituals in your writing process? What causes "writer's block"? What inspires your poetry? Do you believe in the "writer's hand," or is writing poetry a more conscious skill? We are not looking to ANSWER these questions with any finality; we just want your own thoughts and opinions. Send your comments to: PUBLISHER@CHICAGOPOETRY.COM
================

I have written my best poems when in states of emotion pain or turmoil. My poem "Sunday" came to me after I broke up with a girlfriend. I wrote it in a matter of minutes and never did a single rewrite. Within two days of writing it it was already accepted into Hammers Magazine. My poem "Scars" suddenly blurted out of my mouth as I walked with a friend near Broadway and Argyle. And my poem "blood, water, pen, sword" was origianlly written on a napkin in a Chinese restaurant. I can not force myself to write. When I do it all comes out crap. My poems "come" to me without any effort, and I know if it is a good poem or not because I will have the poem memorized immediately without exerting any energy. Sometimes there will be several months inbetween writing a single poem and another. When I was completely broke and living in a run down apartment with a roommate I didn't get along with, I wrote a poem every day, and they were all good by my standards. When I am doing fine and content in life, I don't write anything. Presently I don't spend much time writing poetry because I am working all the time on this website, but I think this type of offering to the poetry community is just as important as writing poetry itself. Sacrifices like this are what makes Chicago the great city it is. So I don't regret it, and I know when my next great poem is ready to come, it will just pop out like a frog from either my mouth or my fingers, and there is nothing I can do to force it out any earlier.

C. J. Laity
===============


ENOUGH NONSENSE: LET'S GET BACK TO THE CREATIVE PROCESS

from: oldshafe@pacbell.net

Hi, Jack Shafer here from Los Angeles (Pasadena actually). I'm just an old L.A. street poet but I will be coming to Chicago in October. I'll be featured at the following.

13th at Cafe Gourmand',
"Word Gourmet"
Hosted by Mars Gamba-Adisa and Nina Corwin

15th at The Green MIll
"Uptown Poetry Slam"
Hosted by Mark Smith
This is a short 10 minute slot for which I am very grateful to Mark Smith because he already has a feature that night.

16th at the Mad Bar
"Mental Graffiti"
Hosted by Anacron and Krystal Ashe

Great thanks to Heather Gawronski who set this all up for me and the gracious hosts who allow me to read without ever hearing me. I pray not to disappoint.

Ok, my creative process. Poetry comes fast for me. I type it directly into the computer. I have an idea and the words come quickly. Then I let it set for a week or so and go look at it again. Sometimes it's trash and I delete it. Most of the time I rework it a little to give it a more general appeal and direction. I also correct spelling and grammar then, take care of line breaks etc.

Stories, dramatic monologue and alchemical treatise come differently. They have never been written. They come to me in blocks of ideas that string together to form a larger piece. It is not easy to explain but if you go to one of the features you will see now that works out on the stage. These are strictly performance pieces. I'm having a book made and my publisher has hired a person to transcribe these pieces from my cd. The cd was recorded at one of my one man shows and is only one step removed from the performance. I don't know how this will work on the page. I did see a sample and it looked pretty good.

Where does it come from? I used to live in Japan in 1964 and met some beggars who were burned by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb blasts. It was an experience that literally changed my life. I put a piece together based on that experience. The moral of it is to preserver.

I lost a friend when we were in Cam Ranh Bay, Republic of Viet Nam. I did a piece on the one good thing that came out of that war, and there was one, only one that I could find.

I have a father-in-law with alzheimer's and I did a first person piece on having that disease. It really speaks to how we can help them live their lives even when they have the disease.

I saw some hobos in the Southern Pacific Classification Yard in Barstow CA and did a piece about a hobo preacher named 'Bo Cephas. 'Bo, short for hobo and Cephas from Peter in the Bible. The moral is that every society has those who feel called to help others, 'Bo takes his calling seriously even if he does talk kind of funny and say funny things. He is a dedicated shepherd of his flock.

So what do I have here? I guess a personal experience sets me off and then the creative process takes over and a story or dramatic monologue or an alchemical treatise or something come from that. Since they are never written down there are two main thresholds they have to go through. First they have to be born. There has to be a first reading. Then they have to be honed and trimmed. That comes from multiple readings.

Forgive the rambling. I hope I have helped explain how it works for me. I'd love to hear how it works for you.

--Jack Shafer



THE CHICAGO POETRY SCENE RESPONDS
ANNA HUSAIN

The creative process of ANNA HUSAIN.

The poetry of ANNA HUSAIN

ANNA HUSAIN'S bio can be found in the NETwork list at ChicagoPoetry.com

===============

LARRY WINFIELD

The creative process of LARRY WINFIELD

The poetry of LARRY WINFIELD.

LARRY WINFIELD'S bio can be found in the NETwork list. A link to his website can be found in the News Room.
===============

CLICK HERE FOR KERRY DOYLE

==================

THIS IN FROM NIKKI PATIN

I am a poet who has been writing since she was 7 and reading since she was 2. I don't know if I've ever been conscious of my process of writing or anyone else's. It has only been in recent years that I discovered there was a method to words and I am still mystified by it. I'm on CJ's side of the camp when it comes to writing poetry...it is an outpouring of emotion, much more so than a literary exercise. I know of meter,alliteration, and personification, have heard of iambic pentameter, and while I recognize the need for labels, I choose not to define my words so neatly. What reaches the page is my energy...what life those words attain on the page or the stage is really up to who reads or hears them, because my life is undeniably woven in between the lines. I know form is a big deal in some parts, as are certain processes...but I am one who is much more comfortable outside the lines...formless. Perhaps I am not as good of a writer as I can be, but I'm honestly okay with this. As evidenced in my work, my writings grow with my life. So far, "the process" has been a lot of fun.

peace,

nikki p :}



WHITNEY SCOTT'S STORY
Regarding your thoughts on writing poetry, you say your best work comes from emotional pain. That's true for me, too, and for so many others.
How many works - literary, musical, visual - have been created "in the heat of passion," in an energized state emotion? It would appear that many have though not exclusively from a place on the emotional continuum we call "pain." It we limit the discussion to anguish and related emotional states, this can lead to a simplistic conclusion that the artist's life is one of pain.

Certainly, the creation of literary art (my area of knowledge) has at its core conflict: depicting it, exploring its roots, developing it, resolving it. Without conflict, we have no drama, and conflict is, by definition, discomforting. I firmly believe that a primary function of the artist in society is to deal with pain - the pain of societal and, ultimately, personal, conflict and its disappointments; the insecurities it triggers; the shadow-memories of past hurts. In addition to exploring this area, the writer does more than simply describe, since that would be reportage rather than literature. The role of the writer/poet/artist/seer/shaman goes beyond that to encompass in its process transformation, perhaps even a kind of transcendence that can occur as the "artist" (a shorthand for the multiple roles mentioned above) works. By taking and using the raw material of experience, and by imposing order over what might seem to be random (therefore terrifyingly endless) chaos, the artist creates a new world with evident parameters: a "holding environment" (per Winnecott, a British expressive therapist) with a sense of structure.

So the artist, in the practice of art, performs metamorphosis by transforming pain into art. Were not the first artists the shamans who created the cave paintings like those found in Altamira and Lascaux? Isn't there a kind of sorcery, then, in the metamorphosis that is art - not only in the act of its creation, but in the ongoing effect it has on all who come into contact with it? At this level of consciousness, art can heal.

By turning pain into art, the artist provides a model to a larger society that pain need not destroy. Some might say that the art-process demonstrates the conquest of pain, and by extension, even death.

* * *

Without question, then, art has roots in pain and conflict, but not necessarily unremitting pain. Perhaps a more cyclical view of strong emotion's (I really want to say passion's) ebbings and flowings could present a more complete picture.
I think a strong case has been made by Kay Redfield Jamison in her landmark book, Touched by Fire, linking artistic creativity with a disproportionately high incidence of marked mood fluctuations, as supported by centuries of anecdotal and clinical evidence. Many masterworks in literature, music and the visual arts saw creation during periods of emotionally charged energy - positive as well as negative. While it may not be appropriate to digress here into writing about the disproportionately high correlation between poets and manic-depressive illness, chronic depression and suicide, we have to acknowledge and address its importance for a disproportionately significant percentage of those in the literary arts, and I would invite further discussion on the matter.

So much for the ramblings of this gypsy scholar - for now.

Whitney Scott



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