Seems to me there's two approaches to writing poetry, which can be summed up as "having something to say" and "letting the something say you."
Many poets, I suspect, "have something to say": a subject, either over their whole life, or for a particular work. It could be "capitalism is bad, socialism is good" or it could be as simple as, "I had a really good time on holiday in Greece."
Others - and I sort of count myself among them - actually don't have something to say themselves, but are trying to "listen in" and then record what the world is saying to them. The American poet Jack Spicer, put it succinctly: "you don't speak to the Outside, the Outside speaks to you." He had this idea that the poem didn't come from inside the poet, but from some outside source, as a kind of channeling thing, that you ought to remove yourself as far as possible from the poem so that you can hear what the poem/world is saying to you.
I can see this as sounding terribly mystical and foggy, but I can identify with it as well. Some of my favourite poems of mine are in some ways mysterious to me - I don't know where they came from. I work out what they're about as I'm writing. Or sometimes months later, after I've read them several times or published them in magazines. I still don't know what some of my poems are "about."
That is really why I started cutting and pasting, and why even though I don't use that technique as much now, chance techniques are still really important to me. Poetry to me is not about imposing my view of the world on other people but about seeking what the world is trying to say to me.
All this, of course, is only a partial explanation of what I do. And it doesn't mean that I've totally rid myself of ego in some zen kind of way. I'm still the same bundle of ego and uncertainty I used to be. But it does explain why "meaning" as in something imposed by me on the reader rather than something the readers discovers in the act of reading, is something I might want to get rid of in my own poems.
Is Freedom from Language Possible?
4 weeks ago