Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Letting Chaos Become Part of the Process

Chaos is what we got when we adopted our second cat (I know, I know...crazy cat lady poet promised not to talk about non-poetry stuff and here she is talking about the darned cats again...hold on, it does relate). Our second cat is young and we adopted her to be a companion for our first cat and to get me some breathing space at the writing desk, as our first cat imprinted quite firmly on me. Well, second cat is as awesome as first cat, but with more energy, which results in escapades at 2:00 a.m. that wake us up. Long story short, after getting up to remove the waste basket from our bathroom this morning at 2:00 a.m. so that the cat would stop tipping it repeatedly (metal bottom on tile floor = loud clang), I found myself back in bed thinking about the draft of a poem I'd begun on Monday.

I wasn't happy about the draft on Monday. It felt bulky and clumsy and ill-formed. Suddenly, in the middle of the night I thought of a new set of lines, a new way into the poem, in a slightly different form and had to get up and write them down. Despite what many poets say about keeping a notepad and pen next to their beds, this doesn't happen to me very often. But it seems that letting the cat's chaos become part of the process was helpful after all. I woke up this morning and jumped right into a new version of the poem that seems more promising.


On a similar note, Carolyn Guinzio has a great post up at Linebreak's blog, Unstressed, today. She's been writing about memorable poetry, and today she touched on one of my big fears that I've written about here before...over-controlling a poem, squeezing the mystery out of it. Here's the quote that struck me:

There is a tendency to revise the memorable qualities out of a poem, out of fear, timidity, a desire to control. We want to use our minds to write; we don’t want our minds using us to write. The danger is in ending up with something controlled, beautifully structured, smart, and completely forgettable.

I love those intuitive leaps that happen as the words strike against each other in new and interesting ways, but I must admit to often losing those leaps in revision and worrying about the reader. This seems to be another tangent on the "letting chaos into the process" thread.

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