For Thursday, October 22, 2015:
“I say one must be a seer, make oneself a seer. The poet makes himself a seer by an immense,
long, deliberate derangement of all the senses.”
When my poetry and I were young, my family claimed they always knew when I had an important (my mother’s word at the time) poem coming because I would get ‘very bitchy.’ When the poem that was germinating was finally ready, I would take my pen and notebook into the bathroom in the middle of the night, sit on the floor with my back against the bathtub, and write until I was satisfied with the first draft. After the poem was thus birthed, according to my family, I was back to my usually sweet self.
Looking back, my family was right: the poems that were birthed in the midnight light of the bathroom were always better than those I had to write for assignments or that just came into my head for some reason. I didn’t feel deranged necessarily, and it certainly wasn’t deliberate, but I do remember going through sometimes intense inner turmoil and conflict as ‘important’ poems built up inside me. The late night writing sessions served as a release valve — a relief valve — as the creative process worked its way through me, sometimes with tears. It wasn’t until years later that I realized those ‘important’ poems were, without fail, spiritual or theological in nature.
Until I learned about haiku in my 10th grade creative writing class, this was my process and habit when it came to writing many of my early poems. While I wrote a fair number of poems before this discovery — notebooks’ worth, in fact — I went a little wild with haiku and its related forms of tanka, senryu and haibun.
These tightly structured forms appealed to my creative mind, but even more to my heart and soul. Sometimes I would write several a day. Eventually I found that sometimes I could condense a poem that was a potential candidate for a late night marathon into 17 syllables, and I could do so without the inner conflict or outer derangement. And sometimes the haiku was creatively better, more satisfying, more effective than a longer version.
It makes sense, if you think about it. A properly crafted haiku is much more than the nature observations that are the usually-perceived purpose. Haiku are profound and spiritual creations. My early haiku weren’t usually profound, but they were definitely spiritual. As Nietzsche wrote, “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.”
If you are struggling with your poetry or writing, or anything in the creative process, I suggest you explore haiku as a vehicle in that journey. And remember, it’s the journey, not the destination, that’s important — so don’t worry if it’s profound or not. I think you’ll surprise yourself at the dancing stars you’ll find along the way.