When I write poetry, I try not to have a set conclusion in mind. I may start with some words or have an idea for an ending, but I don’t want to be tied to them. The words are a starting point. They may appear in a final draft, but they may not.
It took me a while to trust that the words would come of their own accord. The style isn’t free writing, which is an exercise some writers swear by. It isn’t a comfortable mode for me. Neither is waiting for the right mood or inspiration. I align more with the idea that the act of writing, in and of itself, frees me to search for and find the right words. I know they’re there if I can write just long enough to get out of my own way.
Perhaps that’s the key: I try to remove myself from the equation. I let go of the self with all its worries and doubts and distrust. I quit trusting in myself and put my trust in the words. It’s a difficult journey; each time I start a new poem, I’m in the dark. I stumble and bang my shin on an offending coffee table, but I eventually find a way forward. Every word is a groping toward something, a hope that trusting in them will cause the right words to appear, the ones that surprise me but are the ones I need in that moment. Such words can be filled with anguish – my poetry is not often happy. It wrestles and claws. It’s raw and bloodied. It occasionally escapes itself into joy, delight. I know, though, that while my poetry may be what is termed “dark,” the words are the right ones. They don’t hold back. They don’t offer the security of pretense. They illuminate a thing, and that illumination provides the certainty that there is light, there is hope, and both can be found if I trust the words rather than myself.
Image: Artem Popov (Creative Commons)