Thursday, June 24, 2010

intro to poetry 2

I finished Triggering Town last night, and though I was not moved by oceans with this book, I did find a serious of bits I will want to share with my own students. When I consider the book as divided lectures, it's fine, a nice little slip into something comfortable, an essay to be read in the bubble bath. As earnest early-writing-course reading, I'm not so sure. It didn't cause me to want to run to my notebook and write (though more often it is reading full length poetry books that will do that for me than anything else). I didn't feel buzzy about it, the way I might feel so very inspired elsewhere, and that title has so much gorgeous promise. I had hoped it would be more about how to take triggers and turn them into beautiful poems, how to follow that poetic impulse, but I got lost along the way.

A few moments, comparisons, etc. that will help drive crucial points home to the students, or at least given them something wider to ponder:

Often if the triggering subject is big (love, death, faith) rather than localized and finite, the mind tends to shrink. Sir Alexander Fleming observed some mold, and a few years later we had a cure for gonorrhea. But what if the British government had told him to find a cure for gonorrhea? He might have worried so much he would not have noticed the mold. (7)

One way of getting into the world of the imagination is to focus on the play rather than the value of words-- (16)

Make your first line interesting and immediate. Start, as some smarty once said, in the middle of things. When the poem starts, things should already have happened. (Note: White unlined paper gives you the feeling nothing has happened.) If Yeats had begun "Leda and the Swan" with Zeus spotting Leda and getting an erection, Yeats would have been writing a report. (38)

When rewriting, write the entire poem again. If something has gone wrong deep in the poem, you have taken a wrong turn earlier. The next time through the poem you may spot the wrong path you took. If you take another, when you reach the source of your dissatisfaction it may no longer be there. To change what's there is difficult because it is boring. To find the right other is exciting. (38)

Use any noun that is yours, even if it has only local use. "Salal" is the name of a bush that grows wild in the Pacific Northwest. It is often not found in dictionaries, but I've known that word long as I can remember. I had to check with the University of Washington Botany Department on the spelling when I first used it in a poem. It is a word, and it is my word. That's arrogant, isn't it? But necessary. Don't be afraid to take emotional possession of words. If you don't love a few words enough to own them, you will have to be very clever to write a good poem. (40)

Behind several theories of what happens to a poet during the writing of a poem--Eliot's escape from personality, Keats's idea of informing and filling another body, Yeats's notion of the mask, Auden's concept of the poet becoming someone else for the duration of the poem, Valery's idea of a self superior to the self--lies the implied assumption that the self as given is inadequate and will not do. // How you feel about yourself is probably the most important feeling you have. It colors all other feelings, and if you are a poet, it colors your writing. It may account for your writing. (67)

... the imagination's impulse to create unknowns of knowns... (73)

...memory and the imagination modify and transform experience... (75)

1 comment:

Jessie Carty said...

I was a bit underwhelmed by that book as well but so awesome you'll get to teach poetry!