“The body is the first writer of the poem. The mind is the caretaker who moves in to make order. Sometimes what the mind does to the poem is good. Sometimes, it's too much. "I am an enemy of the mind," writes Berryman, while Ginsberg insists that "mind is shapely." With whatever trust or mistrust we have of it, the mind works the poem in a different way. But let's be clear: intellects don't write poems. While they're wonderful to have, they are no substitute for the body's senses of the world. Because the body is irrational, and the irrational is where discovery happens.”— D.A. Powell
“Poetry requires deliberate movement in its direction, a filament of faith in its persistence, receptivity to its fundamental worthwhileness. Within its unanesthetized heart there is quite a racket going on. Choices have to be made with respect to every mark. Not every mistake should be erased. Nor shall the unintelligible be left out. Order is there to be wrenched from the tangles of words. Results are impossible to measure. A clearing is drawn around the perimeter as if by a stick with a nail on the end.”—C.D. Wright, from “My American Scrawl”
How to Train Your Inner Poet #3: Learning Styles and Senses
You’ve probably seen some version of this before:
- Visual (spatial):You learn visually, with pictures and images.
- Aural/verbal (auditory): You learn through sound, with music, through lecture, speech, and other audio cues.
- Physical (kinesthetic): You like using your physical body to learn— movement, handling and manipulating objects, etc.
- Logical (mathematical): You work better with specific rules, systems, or an internal logic.
Everyone prefers a few of these over others. Of course, these are not exclusive to one another— you can use many of these at the same time.
If you’re stuck in your writing, try a learning style that you don’t usually use.
- Visual: Typing up a poem instead of seeing it in a journal, where managing line breaks and stanzas is more difficult due to handwriting; attributing colors, shapes, and objects to the piece; picking out a few key images and “writing around” them; highlighting verbs and nouns, then eliminating extra words; marking the one line that is the “center” of the poem; doing an image search to find things that fit your poem;
- Aural: Listening to a song and writing a poem from it; eliminating noise in your head or in your physical environment so you can “hear” yourself think; white noise; reading the piece out loud to find emphasis or errors; verbalizing your frustration by cursing or sighing; debating with yourself as you write; reading to someone else; saying the words as you write them; saying the words in your head; finding assonance and consonance;
- Physical: eating or drinking something while writing, such as tea; habits while writing, such as chewing on pens; printing out a poem and cutting it up into lines, then rearranging it; seeking out the physical sensations mentioned in the poem and re-experiencing them; writing in a place that is different from your usual spot; writing at different times of day; changing outfits before writing; keyboard vs touch screen vs notebook vs typewriter; having a good chair; other writing rituals;
- Logical: Creating rules for a poem as you write it: two line stanzas; three line stanzas; long line then short line; dropped line; pantoum; sonnet; villanelle; free verse; metre; one taste per stanza; common images in each stanza; number of words per line; amount of space per line; chronological order; timelines; haiku; find the thesis for the poem; do research on what you are writing about;
Practice with all of these styles; your writing should be flexible and adventurous.
In addition to these learning styles, you should be aware of how you interpret the world around you. Are there certain senses you tend to fixate on (smell, sound, sight, touch, taste)? When you re-read your work, notice which senses get more attention than others. Give more focus to the ones you use less.
You must learn to absorb the world around you in its entirety; the smell of rocks, the taste of rubber, the sound of keyboards, and so on. It’s your job to notice what doesn’t get noticed.