I did a workshop at the Poetry Business on Saturday, and used a couple of Robert Adamson poems as stimulus for writing. He's an Australian poet who's always lived in the same part of the Hawkesbury River, influenced by American poets like Zukovsky and Williams but there's a real sense of lived experience in his work. I sometimes feel with John Kinsella that there's always a theory behind everything he writes, however good and well-written he is. I don't get that with Robert Adamson.
I've never really been very good with theories and ideologies etc. I've always been political - pacifist, left-of-centre, liberal-minded etc... and I've never thought that such things don't matter. But as for actually using my poetry to get my ideas across, I can't do it. All that evangelical religion early on, with its guilt-inducing pressure to evangelise, did for that. So I can write from my experience, but I find it difficult if not impossible to write from my ideas. Those ideas could be religious; I want to write about those times when I was very religious and very fundamentalist even, but I find it difficult to get past criticising the ideas to the actual experience.
Religious poetry is difficult anyway; how do you express religious ideas in poetry that doesn't sound like it was lifted from Hymns Ancient & Modern? Or that doesn't sound like a catalouge of New Age vagaries? I still haven't worked that one out, even though a few of my poems have been religious. I didn't plan them that way though; I just wrote them and found out what they were about.
Which is probably my best way of working: not having an idea of what I'm going to say before I write it. I might be writing about a specific experience, but I don't know what I'll say about it. Will I even end up agreeing with myself?