For Friday, March 18, 2016:
“Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.”
P. D. James
“We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
Another trick, I think, is knowing when to let it out, and in what way. Should that image go in this poem, or would it fit better in that story? Or both, in different ways and different words?
In no way do I have a photographic memory – I sometimes wish I could be like some poets who can call up the lines of poems they wrote years ago to recite on cue – but I do remember feelings, images, vignettes, impressions from long ago when I need to for a story. It’s as if my brain works like a sunprint, that process where the sun imprints an image of, say, a fern or a leaf onto a piece of paper.
One thing that helps me recall such times, though, is when I reinforce the imprint with words. Even a few words help. That’s one reason I don’t discard so-called ‘failed’ or unfinished poems. Once in a while I can finish a draft of a poem years later because of something that happened just last week. Sometimes that particular cup wasn’t full yet, apparently.
A favorite poem of mine – and of others, too, based on feedback – came together that way, from parts of three different poems written years apart. None of the three was finished, in my opinion, but I kept them to work on later. I didn’t know it would take such a long time, but the result was worth the wait, and I love the way they all came together as one. It was as if they were waiting for each other.