Poet, translator, essayist, and embodiment of my life goals Anne Carson is on campus this week, and yesterday I went to her Q&A. While talking about writing and inspiration, she described how she often has ideas of things she wants to write and then plays with form until she find their “home.” Some ideas are better suited for poetry, others, prose, but in general, she gets the thought first, and figures out the form later.
Her process initially struck me as odd–How could she not know where her words were going until after writing them down? I always do the opposite, deciding to write a poem or a prose piece and then figuring out ideas that will best fit each form. The more I thought about it, I realized that my process is far from instinctive. Rather, it’s the result of two years spent writing primarily in workshops, where I’m assigned a form to use and then need to come up with ideas to fulfill my assignment.
But every now and then I break this habit. Sometimes, as I’m about to fall asleep, or half-listening to someone talk during class, images or phrases strike me, and I immediately scribble them down. A lot of them make their way into my iPhone notes, where they exist in a sort of homeless state like Anne Carson described, neither prose nor poetry, waiting to be developed. And earlier this year, I wrote every day during July, and those thoughts weren’t restricted to any particular forms. Looking back on those, they’re mostly fragments, and the ones that I tried to mold into stories or poems feel stiff and awkward–they’re not in the right home yet, where they can stretch out and breathe.
Hopefully, I’ll continue to let my writing process move in both directions, and create pieces that fit their forms and vice versa.
To encourage that, and to stay in the spirit of my original post (where I posted a poem I’d written), I’ll share some of those fragments here (and while they’re not much more than thoughts at the moment, they’re mine, and I would love for them to be treated as such so I can write them into homes in the future):
- Yellow orb of sun late to arrive on the horizon but no less impressive for it. Lands in the mountains with a splash of gold, mauve, lavender, a spray of nascent constellations
- I’m not sorry for running through weeds on the side of the road and kicking up a storm of insects–I’m sorry i don’t know what any of them are called
- Stars would flicker & scatter like lightning bugs if they could–they do, actually, just much slower
- How lovely to dip between friendship and relationship, to lap at love and emerge unchanged
- I drink the silt at the bottom of my coffee cup and think a little grit is good for me
- Two friends giggling together in a silent auditorium
- Bold black jumpsuit, hard angles, soft bun–she passes through the doorframe and my breath follows her out
- Distant mountains looming gauzy in humid air as we drive through towns named after ancient city states
- He read the ice right out of her glass