IN MY CONTRIBUTION of short notes on writing poetry, I have left one primary ingredient till last. It is probably taken for granted but deserves to be mentioned, and I offer my own interpretation.
Imagination in writing poetry is the one ingredient that cannot be sourced from anywhere or anyone else; it is most likely the one skill that cannot be taught to you by another person.
It multiplies a strong intuition and meaningful inspirations, because both these elements of a poet’s ability are nourished by a fertile imagination.
So say two of the great poets:
“One power alone makes a poet: imagination.” William Blake
“Poetry is the lava of imagination whose eruption prevents the earthquake.” Lord Byron
Imagination is, in essence, the source where all the wonder and power of the written words of a poem originate.
Inspiration fans the flames of a poet’s imagination. Imagination must be twinned to a poet’s intuition in order to communicate heart-to-heart with the recipient audience.
Here’s a poem by Carl Sandburg that sounds quite plain until the last two lines which brings the entire poem into a new perspective by the imaginative observation he makes.
Look at six eggs
Look at six eggs
In a mockingbird’s nest.
Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O-be-joyful
Over the marshes and uplands.
Look at songs
Hidden in eggs.
Source: A Phantom Script – an anthology of poetry, by Keyte and Baines, (eds.) 1991
We all have a sense of imagination but poets like other artists use theirs much, much more. If you don’t use your imagination, don’t expect to create good poetry.
Of course you can nurture and encourage the development of your imaginative faculties, and that’s something for you to learn about in another avenue.
I’m not qualified to lecture on it and this piece is too short for me to pass on much wisdom about gaining an imaginative intellect.
It is worth mentioning that a good education curriculum will help pupils to develop their imaginative faculties as much as using logical, deductive/inductive and critical reasoning skills.
Rote learning may have its uses but for creative pursuits this is insufficient. Memory is for recording stuff but imagination is what allows us to ‘work things out in our heads’.
Imagination is the mind at play. Allowing a mind to play is just as important as making a mind work.
In today’s world science and technology is considered to be a major driving force behind the advancement of any nation. In PNG this has been recognized by the Office of Higher Education through its science and technology initiative and associated activities.
Where do technological inventions/innovations come from? Do they come from mathematics and science? Those are merely the language to interpret and the tools used to develop and construct what we have already thought up in our heads.
Invention and innovation spring from the same
inexhaustible well as poetry, imagination.
(This is also why basic education is so important, because we don’t want to create mindless drones.)
So, what I would like aspiring poets to think about is using their imagination fully when writing poetry.
When the first inspiration of a poem arrives, what do you do?
Write it down, then think forward to what the final outcome of the poem may be – where do you think it’s going (although that may change while writing), what emotion will your audience recall when they read it, how might the reader respond; how do you wish the poem to sound when it is read?
Apply your intuition; question if what you’ve written is what you were thinking, is it different or somehow better? Is the gist of the final poem alright with your imagination, is the piece enhanced or reduced when re-read?
Then get more technical; consider the number of words in the line(s), are they all necessary, are they the right words or the best words, and how does each word and the thought that each line conveys affect the overall image of the poem that is forming; should it rhyme, does it need rhythm; what is its most appropriate length and does the poem need structure?
There are so many more questions to ask that if the task
of writing a poem was approached by logical means it would take forever and not
make much sense.
The resulting poem would be blank verse, devoid of any emotion. (It’s also true that deductive/inductive reasoning falls short when trying to ‘figure out’ poetry.)
Using imagination elevates your poetry writing to another level, where those many questions can be answered, some almost instantaneously, as the writing advances.
Often a poet may work with a memory or some related or personal experience as the inspiration for a poem.
But usually this writing will be laced with imagination and imbedded with the poet’s intuitive feeling of where the poem is going and what the poem is about.
While inspiration provides an impulse for writing poetry and intuition reveals a poets heart and soul, your imagination is needed to make a poem pulse with the blood of your words.
At morning on the beachfront of Malolo Plantation Lodge, Madang
BY MICHAEL DOM
Rolling surf thunders
In blazing orange sunlight;
Dawns mute explosion
Fat black waves foam white
in daybreaks brief afterglow;
wayward winds turn tail
Crashing on dark shores,
the ceaseless surge of the seas
crests and troughs are spent
Flotsam and jetsam,
cast ashore on sea-salt suds,
carried by the tide
A lone swimmer dives
into funnelling breakers,
laughing at his fate
Tossed by one long wave,
borne to shore on another,
with sand in his pants
Orange fades blue-grey
easing the roar of the sea
into background sounds
Seven pseudo-haiku started at Murukanam 24/05/2012, finished at Labu Station, 1:00pm 06/06/2012