I was talking to my hairdresser the other day (and what else do you do when you’re stuck in a chair for several hours but make conversation?), and in the course of our chat, I found myself talking about my writing, especially the poetry I’m currently working on. “Poetry, wow!” was her response. “How do you write a poem?” And the honest answer had to be (although I dressed it up slightly more nicely than this): Well, to be honest, I have absolutely no earthly idea.
This is funny because I’ve written quite a few poems now and I’m actually working on a project centred entirely around poetry…and yet, I couldn’t begin to tell you how to write a poem. Part of it is intellectual, of course: there is a deliberation around the use of line breaks, choice of words – even punctuation is deliberately and carefully selected. But for me, there’s so much more to a poem than, say, a blog post or a short story, or even a case-note for work.
Because poems form themselves. I might have the topic; I might approach the page with a title in mind, or at least a theme – but everything beyond that seems to be up to my pen. Phrases form themselves in my mind, and then manoeuvre around each other on my page, and a skeleton and then a body takes shape, and there is an entity on the page – sometimes not quite what I’ve been expecting – seemingly without my conscious effort.
Of course, I do have to take responsibility for the words that come out of my pen, and I’m not discounting the work of years – writing practise, journalling, those interminable fantasy novels I started as a teenager which died as no more than half-formed narratives – which goes into a single poem on the page, some of which are even worth keeping. But there’s more to it than practise, than conscious effort.
I’m a rational person: I value my intellect, I think things through (think; over-think: take your pick) and despite a deep spirituality in precisely this, I struggle to trust what I can’t quantify. But intuition has perhaps saved my life (that story another time), and I have to acknowledge the role that intuition plays in creativity. And I’m not the only one. Dancers, artists, a brilliant composer who also happens to be a friend, my artistic inspiration who is also my oldest friend – they all talk about something more than technique and structure and form. They all talk about the idea which comes to them, which arrives from somewhere and from nowhere and allows itself to be nurtured and to bring something into being.
Part of my journey at the moment is learning to trust myself, and a big part of that is learning to trust my intuition. That the poems, the words, the images and the narratives are in there, within me. That I can trust them, and trust myself, to let them out.
Who’d have thought it.