general · poetry

The Process of Poetry

As may be already obvious, I absolutely love writing poetry. I am not saying I am the best in the world or anything like that, but to make pretty little things out of virtually nothing makes me happy and feeling good. It might also be necessary to clear out here that ‘pretty’ for me here doesn’t mean happy or joyous, but in general something that sounds good to myself and sort of takes away some clutter from my head and makes everything a little nicer for a while.

There are times when I feel the need to write, though, but nothing comes out. These times I have to maybe force me to write whatever crappy things come to my head before I can manage something nice. Sometimes I write plenty of these crappy things and never get to the real thing. Sometimes I go back to the crappy ones and find that they are actually quite nice as well.
Other times, however, things seem to, more or less, come out of me without me wanting them to. I can be sitting in the bus or in class, where for one reason or another I’m unable to whip out a notebook and scribble down something fast, even. So eventually my phone and the corners of my school papers are full of silly little phrases or sentences that I can maybe at some point use or have already used in a poem. Usually these bursts of inspiration come at times when I’m already busy with loads of things to do and should concentrate on something more important.

Regardless of when and how I manage to get into writing something, the way I write my poems varies as well.
Sometimes I hear or see or read little phrases that get stuck in my head and are so lovely that I simply have to use them as titles of poems. This means that the idea or theme would also be set before writing anything more, because most of the time my titles reflect the rest of the poem. Usually this approach does not work. I end up staring at the title for a good while and writing something worthless, just to wipe it off (since I write in pen, mostly, not on the computer), and replace it with something equally unsatisfactory. Often I end up abandoning the whole thing, and the title is used in some other context, perhaps in another poem within the text itself.

Another possibility is that I have heard, read or seen something that gives me an inspirational sentence that I simply have to include in a poem. It used to be the first line, mostly, but nowadays I’ve gotten the habit of including these scraps somewhere in the middle. Sometimes they are so powerful (to me, perhaps, personally), that they go straight to the end as a punchline. There are days when this happens more often, and days when this doesn’t happen at all, naturally. But as an example, the day before (or yesterday, I’m not entirely sure), I saw yellow and orange leaves fallen on the river I cross with the bus everyday, and I thought it was beautiful. Later, I just happened to think of something about a lost storyline, and thought it would make a neat line in a poem.

When I feel like writing, I often take up these little fragments, write them on the top of the page for inspiration and set my pen to work. Of course, this doesn’t always work as planned. For example, with the two pieces mentioned above, my original idea was to write only one poem. However, once I was finished with the first one (Storyline), I noticed that the leaves didn’t really fit in. So I wrote another one for that (Seasons). This is not the only possible outcome, though. There is a poem, I think it is the one called On Words and Their Consequences, which has a phrase ‘echo without a voice’. When I tried to write something based on this, I actually came up with two or three poems, none of which had the line in them. It was close to Halloween, so naturally I was thinking ghosts when I thought about the words, but for some reason all the poems where somehow too happy (surprisingly) to include such a powerful line. So, then I figured I’d write something else, and forget about the echoes, since it was obviously not going to work out, and came up with a poem where I indeed used it. One that had nothing to do with ghosts, really. Or maybe in a very symbolic way? I guess it just wanted to be used in a way I didn’t even think it could.

Most comfortable for me is, for some reason, to just let the words flow out of me and onto the page, without me really editing or censuring any of it until the end, only if it simply doesn’t fit in the rhythm. I might not even know what I’m writing about until I’m finished. Often I sit for a good 10 minutes, reading the poem again and again until all the words suddenly come together and it lays there open and full of meaning. And then I can come up with a proper title, once I’ve figured out what the poem actually deals with.

I don’t know, maybe all this sounds horribly weird to anyone else reading it, but it’s the way this particular brain works.

Another point of interest is that the process varies from language to another.
In Finnish I usually have an idea I want to express and then come up with the poem around it. In English is as I mentioned above, I write the poem before knowing what it’s about.
Also in Finnish I think it is easier for me to write more freely, as in, out of a set rhythm, maybe without rhymes and all that. In English I feel completely lost without a proper structure. Although recently, even in Finnish, I keep falling in rhymes. I wrote a poem recently which starts and finishes without rhymes, but the middle is in rhyme.

 

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