— Richard Diebenkorn
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014- 8:30 AM
I have a dear friend I’ve never met face to face, though we email many times back and forth each day and talk on the phone for two hours once a week. I met her here on WordPress because her poetry—though very different from mine struck a chord in me and I believe we are kindred spirits. This is not to say we agree on everything about writing or about each other’s poetry but we speak a common language.
She has explained to me how she goes about writing. She takes the chaos around her and focuses on one thing in specific and on a pad ‘mind-maps’ her ideas for a poem. This might explain why in my estimate as I have described her poetry as I see it, why she has the ability to bring the reader to a point inside the poem—not the beginning and take them out before the conclusion of the story—all poems are stories in a way. I don’t mean to say she leaves off the beginning and ending for the reader but in the way she fills in what happens in between those two points she is able to make the reader part of her experience and they, I feel, can fully fill in the what comes before the poem and what comes after simply because the part she shows them is so well put together that there is a logic proscribed that lets the reader’s intuition fill in the rest.
I find her poems like catching a beam of light or thought and understanding them completely and they leave me satisfied.
I on the other hand have to have a beginning middle and end to my work. But we are both the same, or in the same circumstance. We both deal with chaos on some level as all artists do—writers I think in particular because what they do is work with language which is a bit more cerebral that other mediums are in execution.
To be honest, when I begin a poem I jump into the chaos head first usually. Sometimes I have a particular idea in mind but invariably my poem begins with a visual stimulus or a title and if I am lucky I begin with a good first line or sentence (though my sentences are invariably more than one or two lines (an influence from reading a lot of Faulkner).
Where my friend tries to order chaos (happily, I might add) in trying to order it first, I on the other had work within the chaos as I go. But we both tolerate it, in fact welcome it because that is what is out there—lots of chaos—it is one of the reasons man invented time measurement.
I liken it to standing next to a swift flowing stream or river. All that is passing before you is a chaos of water. At some point you put your hand in the flow and some of it sticks to your hand or you cup some and taste it and quench your thirst—initially. (Speaking about chaos is in itself chaotic, lol) You work with the water collected on your hand or feet or your whole body if you do as I do many times and jump full body into the current—I can show you poems were this has happened. What you have left on you is the part of the chaos around you that you must deal with—you capture it with a towel while drying yourself off—that is the creation part of the equation.
For myself I don’t always know where a poem will take me though I try to act like I’m in complete control. There are times when I will write the first thought and then the second thought strikes me as a good place to end and so I enter it lower on the page and try to write to that point. Other times I let it lead me, or let my knowledge, senses of what is right and my past experience help out things in order.
The point is you must tolerate chaos because chaos is all you have to work with in most cases. Inspiration in itself is a form of organized chaos that comes upon you and you still must do all you can to make it do what it want you to make it do, become a cogent, understandable piece of art. If you are not willing to accept chaos as a fact of life you end up doing the same thing over and over again because you have closed your senses off to new experiences.
Embrace it for what it is. Making art is an attempt to make sense of the chaos. Also, keep in mind that though what we experience as chaos may not be chaos at all but from our vantage point we are unable to see the larger order in it. Though not a religious person—I am spiritual in my fashion, it can be likened to, if you believe in a supreme being, to wondering why there is evil in the world. The only realistic answer is that it is part of a larger plan. Art is very much like that. Each time you go to attempt to make art what you are trying to do is make sense out of the small part of the chaos out there. Over time if you are open to new experiences and are sensitive enough and curious enough you cn sometimes end up your life by being able to see that one plus one equals two, but there is always those times when you must accept the fact that one plus one plus one does not always make three. “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe” comes to mind.
We are all out here alone but we are together in that. That is one of the connections we have with any other human being in the world. The difference for an artist is that they are trying to explain how and why that is both to themselves and to the rest of the world.
More to follow…>KB