Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for June 4th, 2017

The poet’s sock drawer

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I never find words right away. Poems for me always begin with images and rhythms, shapes, feelings, forms, dances in the back of my mind. And much of the poem is already dancing itself out before I begin to look around for the words for it. So I’m not a language poet in the sense that some people say all poetry starts with language…When you roam around in the spaces of your mind, you’re not forming sentences and reeling out vocabulary, you’re just looking. You’re looking at the landscape of your mind, and you’re solving problems. For example, how do you know where your socks are in your drawer? You don’t make a sentence, “My socks are in the corner of my drawer.” You pull the drawer out, look around, and you see all the socks are kept there. That’s how we get dressed in the morning…

It comes together by itself, by my letting it come together and not interfering too much until it begins to pull together. Now all of this is not to say that after a poem is written down it’s finished. By no means. There comes a further exercise, which is tuning—fine tuning, revision, listening to it many times and touching it up a bit—and when one comes to that, of course, language is of great importance. So I was just talking about the roots, the origins. Both exercises are real.

Gary Snyder, to Bill Moyers in The Language of Life

Written by nevalalee

June 4, 2017 at 7:30 am

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