The Process of Poetry

This is going to be a long post. If you’re not interested in how a poem gets written, revised, rewritten and “de-scaffolded”, you probably should move on.
I’m struggling to complete an assignment that we in Eamon Grennon’s advanced poetry workshop were given to complete by this Thursday. And I do mean struggling. It’s our second assignment.
Our first assignment was to write three possible first stanzas based on this Vermeer painting. Each stanza had to be 11 lines long, and each line had to have between 9 and thirteen syllables. At the first workshop meeting, each of us 12 “advanced poets” read his/her three versions, and the group, including Grennon, reached a decision about which version was the “best.” Interestingly enough, we all tended to agree.
These are the three I wrote: (Notice that the first version was just something I had to get out of my personal system; the second was based on my doing a little historical research about the era in which the painting was executed; the third was my stretch to come up with a novel angle on the scene.)
You can be sure that picking up a pen,
already dripping virulent ink,
will bring an old woman rapping at the door
armed with a burned pot and dented memory;
or maybe a mad cat clawing at the sleeve
of the rich wrap you threw on against
the chill of an exigent morning held at bay.
You yearn for moments between dawn and day,
for the silence sought by a rhymed mind.
You hunt the lines that pulled your smile from sleep,
and learn to expect interruptions.
How she resents the power of such darkness

5 thoughts on “The Process of Poetry

  1. Interesting. To me, poetry is revelation, an opening: to/of poet and to/of listener/reader/sharer. “I am/have been here,” says the poet. “I am/have been here, too,” says the reader. Then both are seeing/being and become in a way their own poem.

  2. Sounds like poetry boot camp … but you already have the drill down pact: expression, art, and craft! You’ll be in plenty of shape, even after the workshop, to run rings around any writer’s block.
    Thank you for sharing with us this process (the inspiration and the drudgery of it all); it really feels as if you had included us in the workshop itself.

  3. This struggle is a learning experience for me — maybe a painful one as it’s turning out. I think I’ll learn more about myself than I will about how to force a poem (which is not how it should happen anyway). It’s becoming an exercise in honesty for me. And that’s where all art begins, right?

  4. I write poetry because I have to or else I’ll go crazy. If people end up liking what I write, that’s great, but I don’t usually spend very much time on any one poem. Poetry might be the one thing I have a natural affinity for, but I probably write an average of 5 poems a year, and I’m not very confident about what I write.
    As a kid I always liked building things. I liked hammering nails into wood, and once I even made a cathouse that my cat never used. I think I was just starting to understand the rush that creating something brings. I get that rush after I finish a poem, because I know nobody else has ever made anything like what I’ve just made, and nobody ever will.

  5. I was just thinking about that last comment I left you and how it ties in to what you said in your post.
    “Me, I want my poems to sing, and I want others to want to dance to my music.”
    Poems should do something for the people who read them, otherwise they’re like that cathouse I built, sitting unused in the corner of the garden. I’d rather make something that serves a purpose, otherwise my poetry will end up like those “impossible object” furniture items that only confuse people who look at them.

Leave a Reply