Shelley Widhalm

Poem Finding

In 52: A Writer's Life, Poetry, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on June 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

I love the idea of a poem finding the poet rather than the poet, through the process of writing, creating a poem.

One poet describes this process of poem finding as literally chasing it down in its whole-poem shape. The poems she meets as she works outside rumble through the fields coming toward her. She has to run toward paper to capture each one, or the poem will go onto the next person. If she gets to the poem barely in time, it comes out backwards.

I write poetry using poetry exercises, an image that excites me or that magic I can’t understand. I experience a poem feeling that causes me to drop what I’m doing and grab something to write with and something to write on, whether it’s paper, a napkin or a paper towel.

The poem that arrives, giving me this poem feeling, usually is rough and just the start of something that needs revision, but it’s as if it came from elsewhere or from within my subconscious, arising suddenly. If I don’t listen to the poem feeling’s voice calling to me, I lose the poem.

I believe that poems are of the moment. If you wait two seconds, the poem will come out slightly different because your thoughts have moved slightly forward in time and space, the air has slightly changed, the sunset has shifted or disappeared and the moment is just that, a moment, here, then gone.

It’s like photography, where the professional photo takes rapid fire photos of the same image, but with each frame, the lighting, position of the body and the expression change.

This magical type of poetry that arrives with the message, I’m a poem, is like Michelangelo’s carving out the preexisting shape to free it from stone.

I am the lucky recipient of these few poems that find me.

And in the process, I have found a lightning blast of excitement, passion and energy in that zap that turns a moment into a word dance.

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  1. awesome post. a line that stood out to me,
    “but it’s as if it came from elsewhere or from within my subconscious, arising suddenly. If I don’t listen to the poem feeling’s voice calling to me, I lose the poem.”
    reminds me of a time where a short story just came out of me. i entered it to a writing contest but i felt as if i didn’t write it. my conscious mind played no part in the creative process, so nothing was blocked.
    great post!

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