October 1, 2020

CONCLUSIONS THAT NEVER CONCLUDE


"If you don't like what you wrote, don't think about the words, just remember it better."

I'm paraphrasing Robert Hass's advice on revision in a dimly-recalled Vimeo of a talk given in Rotterdam, a paraphrase itself of something Jack Kerouac once said.

The context was a discussion of the sources of poetry according to Rilke (memory, dream, art) and its subjects (joy, longing, grief). Hass had set up a quick exercise in noting a location for each of those emotions.

Just before this, someone in the audience asked about revision, to which Hass responded with an anecdote (about Robert Duncan and his poem "My Mother Would Be a Falconress") that suggested a poem only acquires the name 'poem' when all the writing is done, essentially another way of saying writing is rewriting is writing.

I recall, as a young person just beginning to find my own poems, asking a friend about her process and how she knew when a poem was finished. The question felt a little like the one my younger self asked my mother: how do you know when it's love? 

My poet friend answered that she played the poem in her mind's eye like a little movie, following it to its conclusion.

My mother answered that it's when you can't not be there, or, there's no conclusion.

          mid-day at my desk
          tea going cold
          milk going warm
          I've been listening to poetry

No comments:

Post a Comment