Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How to watch without looking

The other day, I mentioned how poems seem to sneak up when I least expect it—and when I'm not prepared with a paper and pen and often when I am attempting to operate a motor vehicle, most likely in rush hour traffic.

The flip side is that sometimes the poetry stream seems to run dry. Where do you find inspiration? Kelli discussed this recently—that you can get inspiration from the world and all its moments. You just have to get out in it.

But I think that there are different ways to be out in the world. I might be completely absorbed by whatever I'm doing. Or I might be casting about for poem ideas, viewing everything through that filter. The first way works better for me than the second way—but the second is oh, so tempting. (I feel like I'm doing something, like I'm being a writer!)

Perhaps there is a third way. At work, one of my colleagues writes an online comic. We'll be in a team meeting, riffing along in our usual somewhat cynical mirth, and we'll see him jotting down notes. Sure enough, in a day or a week, we'll see the nugget of our conversation turned into a comic. Somehow, he has figured out how to be aware of what's going on around him without letting his own awareness trip him up. Hmmm…

I was thinking about this while I walked home from the bus. I saw a thick stand of foxglove up the hill. I saw a tree that looked like it grew up dancing. But I did not see a poem. Maybe I was still looking too hard.

How do you do it? Where do you find inspiration? How do you watch?


SAC said...

I create visual art. Much of my work is inspired by whatever is around me. I get excited about colors and textures and small things others often never notice. But another source of inspiration comes from things that merely float around me; things I'm just vaguely conscious of. These might be a glimpse of part of an object that recalls to mind something else, a feeling I'm carrying around after a conversation with someone, or a simple string of words I overhear or read out of context. While Kelli admits to getting inspired by art - I am not infrequently inspired by poetry!

Joannie said...

"small things others often never notice"

I think that's the key. I'm trying to become a better noticer.

Billy said...

I think that things work best when there is a dialectic at work; when an inner plan snaps into focus with something new. (In the midst of a re-translation of an ancient Taoist text, Edwin Denby inserted "This radio drives me crazy" and somehow it hit.

Speaking of good fortune, I finally broke the Blogger block.

Joannie said...

That Edwin--always a great pleasure!

But the tricky part is that one often doesn't understand what forces are in play until the moment is at hand (if then).

And I'm so glad that you've beaten the block!