Guest blogger, Maria Terrone
How many full-time poets do you know? For me, the answer is none. Even the poets who teach on the faculty of Queens College in New York City, where I’m an administrator, go home to husbands, children, grading and lesson plans. Serious writers, especially if they’re women, usually have to work hard to carve out what I think of as a necessary “circle of stillness” from very busy, complex lives.
What may help is allowing your life apart from the non-writing time to feed your creative spirit. I feel that poetic inspiration comes when you allow yourself to be in a state of readiness. I can easily become a kind of numbed prisoner of my daily routine. Maybe that’s a coping mechanism we humans use to get through the day. But if we’re creatures of habit, we don’t put ourselves in the position of seeing, hearing or feeling what may be strange or even unpleasant. We’re on automatic pilot, missing the details.
As a poet, I have to remind myself that it may be easier cruising through life that way, but it’s not how art gets made. To me, being in a state of readiness means being open on all levels to the possibility of being inspired by and ultimately transformed by the quotidian. Recently, I came across a quote by Shelley that says it all: “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden veil of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”
Almost all of my inspiration comes from allowing my senses to connect with the physical world while simultaneously allowing my mind, through close observation, to work its alchemy. Inspiration can come in that specific moment or later, after conscious or unconscious filtering—but being open and ready come first.
I always keep a very small (3” x 5”) notebook in my handbag so that fleeting thoughts—usually based on observing the physical environment or people sitting across from me on the subway or passing by on the street—are captured in their immediacy and intensity. When my husband and I were dating, we enjoyed a Scottish group called The Incredible String Band. Our favorite song was called “This Moment” and its refrain was: “This moment is different from any before it; this moment is different, it’s now.”
So the idea is to capture whatever it is you notice, because you’re noticing for a reason. If you’re a poet, some of your jottings may become the seeds of poems, or lead to other ideas that later enter your work.
Getting back to the “circle of stillness”: some may be able to write with music or the radio on, but quiet works best for me. Stillness means being free from the distractions and constant temptations of telephone, email, internet and BlackBerry. If I’m at home, that means closing the bedroom door, propping myself up with big pillows and surrounding myself with a few books of poetry that I love. Reading the works of writers I admire never fails to spark my own creativity. Their words pull me into their worlds, paradoxically allowing me to enter the deep place in myself where my own Muses live.
Part of the above blog was drawn from the author’s 2009 interview by Pirene’s Fountain.
Maria Terrone’s book, A Secret Room in Fall, won the McGovern Prize from Ashland Poetry Press in 2006. She is also author of a second poetry collection, The Bodies We Were Loaned (The Word Works) and a chapbook, American Gothic, Take 2 (Finishing Line Press). Her prize-winning poems have appeared in more than a dozen anthologies. Visit her at www.mariaterrone.com.
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