Friday, 18 January 2013

15 Reflections on Writing a Poem a Day

A finely tuned callibration of sonic waves?

Having started on January 10th, I'm now 8 poems in to my plan to compose a poem a day. At this stage I wanted to record my reflections on the project so far.

1. The poems are longer than I had imagined that they would be. 10 to 14 lines is not uncommon. Initially, I had planned couplets, fragments or 3-liners.

2. Perhaps related to the point above, there's a curious creative challenge to turn an 11, 12 or 13 line poem into a sonnet (14 lines). This helps to stretch my thoughts and ideas beyond the safety zone.

3. There is a stronger allegiance to traditional metrical techniques than I had anticipated. It just feels right to have lines that are 10 or 8 syllables.

4. Sometimes rhymes are entertaining and dare I say - delightful! The technical requirements that emerge have the effect of pushing creativity beyond the lazy or logical word choice

5. In summary, there's less of the radical innovation and free experimentation that would have made my task easier than the formal restrictions adopted so far.

6. But there's plenty of time to experiment. And I've mapped out 52 Creative Strategies in an earlier blog.

7. The obvious weaknesses are that the poems have not undergone painstaking revision, reworking and correction. Knowing that these productions are not loaded with the expectation of public viewing really helps me not to become disenchanted or anxious.

8. This lack of sustained revision does not mean that I'm failing to use my critical faculty as I compose; there's plenty of crossing out and lines shifting their positions.

9. The structure of the poetic thinking is quite weak. I'm not sure I'm making enough effort with openings and endings, and a more defined middle game.

10. There is also a tendency to create lists of startling and vivid images. The 'poems' are fragments linked by a theme.

12. Having said that, my intention from the outset was to avoid negative self-critique and the judgmental destructiveness that my fussy perfectionism would prefer to apply to these productions.

13. Has this work improved my spiritual or mental health? Has it sharpened my verbal/critical intelligence? It's too early to answer such questions. My night dreams are still vivid and disturbing (but seldom traumatic).

14. But I will confess that I'm writing more prose - short stories - with greater facility and confidence. So maybe that's a spin off?

15. Madness? Increasingly the writing is semi-independent of my conscious will; almost like hearing friendly voices. And I am catching glimpses of something that was momentarily concealed but which is uncannily familiar. Magic?

If you have any thoughts or comments on my poem a day - mental health five - don't hesitate to drop me a line.


Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences

 (Quibble Academic, 2013)

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