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A poet’s journey 6: Using poetic intuition


INTUITION OR INSTINCT is difficult to describe. It is a sense or impression based on some indefinable certainty, like some secret knowledge that you can’t quite put your finger on, or like a kind of spiritual intelligence.

Sometimes you may start writing a poem with no idea how it is going to get to where it is going, or even where it is going at all!

Very often a poem seems to evolve and find a way all of its own. This is when poetic intuition takes over.

Here is how Merril Moore describes poetic intuition taking over her writing.

Literature: the God, its Ritual

Something strange I do not comprehend
Is this: I start to write a certain verse
But by the time that I come to its end
Another has been written that is worse
Or possibly better than the one I meant,
And certainly not the same, and different.

I cannot understand it –– I begin
A poem and then it changes as I write,
Never have I written the one I thought I might,
Never gone out the door that I came in,
Until I am perplexed by this perverse
Manner and behaviour of my verse.

I’ve never written the poem that I intended;
The poem was always different when it ended.

Source: A Phantom Script – an anthology of poetry, by Keyte and Baines (eds) 1991

As poets we use our intuition a lot of the time, whether we realize it or not, and it is important to allow our poetic intuition to take control of our creative writing.

This is what Peter Kranz was alluding to when he commented that poems should come from the heart and not from the brain. Being in touch with our intuitive side is essential to writing good poetry; poetry which speaks to other people heart to heart.

But note that Moore says that the poems she ends up with may be “…worse / or possibly better than the one I meant”.

So there is a certain skill that’s required and experience in working with our intuition that allows us to get the best writing out of ourselves. The aim is not to take control of intuition; rather it is to know when our intuition is at work and enable it to lead us, to leap beyond logic.

At one time I tried creating poems using the letters of people’s names to see what I could create. This is what I wrote of my own name; ‘My instinct comes heedlessly and ever leadless / Dances over memory’ (a poem of myself).

The poem was written during the time when I made a firm decision to take up writing poetry as a serious pursuit, and you might say that I had seen an image of my poetic intuition.

This kind of written verse is called acrostic poetry, where any word or phrase can be used to create verses which either begin with or contain a spelled out message (hidden) within the stanza.

Jimmy Drekore in his poem I cry for you, used the acrostic form very effectively by making each of the letters in Papua New Guinea into lines, forming three stanzas of a very patriotic poem.

Similarly, one of my own works included in the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012, As I bask in her afterglow, was an acrostic poem using my sweetheart’s full name, Isidora Galikeo Ramita, in a hopelessly romantic poem.

Every poem reveals a part of the poet and thereby intuitively shares a human experience with the reader. It is often a startling self-revelation to find out what we think and feel when we write poetry and in acrostic poems the word or the phrase that we are interested in is directly involved as an essential part of the whole poem.

Acrostic poetry can be a challenging and useful form for practicing with because the starting letters or words are already provided and what we have to do is supply the rest, joining them together to form a cohesive verse according to whatever inspiration has gained our attention.

Making the right connections requires intuition, the flip side of inspiration. So writing acrostics is a good learning method for combining your intuition with your intelligence when working with words, images and ideas.

Often in friendships we feel our way intuitively, each developing better understanding of the other along the way.

And friendships between women (who have ‘female intuition’) and men (who are somewhat ‘disadvantaged’) come with their unique differences and difficulties, but can be a valuable and enriching experience in life.

Below is an acrostic poem which I wrote for a very good friend in appreciation for what our friendship had come to mean to me over the years.

When I began this acrostic poem I had no idea how it would turn out. But I knew what I wanted to get and recognized it right away when I saw it towards the end.

In the process of writing the poem I had revealed a hidden truth which I may not have understood nor expressed better in any other way than using poetic intuition.

Pale One

Let me remember
One beautiful day
Untouched by illusion
Ever as it was meant to be
Let it be mine
Let it be ours

Then all would be well
And the darkness would retreat
Under the sun of that bright memory
More blessed are we
After all we have seen
Yesterday’s dreams came to pass
And tomorrows hope remains
Unexpectedly both, but welcome
Now we understand that we shared
A communion of souls.

A poem published in The National newspaper writers’ forum in 2006


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