Recently, Dan put his interview of James Emanuel
up on Cosmoetica; it's a great document and I encourage all of you to read it in its entirety. I will not excerpt too heavily from it, for I believe you would be better served by simply reading the interview itself, but a brief look is in order:
Poetry and fiction are always around us, waiting to be seized upon, jostled and cradled into new beings. The extra thought not energized, the extra step not willed drops the halfway writer into the category of the fond parents in an old cartoon bearing the words, “We first knew he was a genius when we saw him reading without moving his lips.” A real writer is lucky to find enough time to write, and he will not complain when The Muse is out to lunch. Even without a spade, he will dig in.
As Emanuel very eloquently notes, it is important to pursue the art even when inspiration fails; Art Durkee wrote an entry on Why Poems Written From The Head Ultimately Fail
. I agree that it's important to bring things other than technical excellence and ideas to the table; a poem has to be brought into being in a variety of senses. However, good poems can certainly start purely from the head and then develop later on. That is why pursuit of the art is essential, even with a blank sheet against a blank mind.
If such a [multi-talented] person is a writer, he must budget his time in favor of his best or most gratifying creativity. The luckiest in this group are the self-directed ones, those disciplined enough to follow their strongest inclinations, their tightest reasoning. If talent is a curse, I say, curse back at it and keep on going in the direction that calls you most urgently.
The calling often changes over time; Jess and Dan Schneider are both good examples of this, since both have written a great deal of poetry, but neither are currently writing any poetry in favor of other pursuits. I briefly devoted a greater deal of time to photography, but refocused on poetry when I realized my time is better spent with a pen than with a camera (though I occasionally take art shots for fun).
For years, in first approaching the very small children of friends, children not old enough to talk, sometimes I have asked them questions that they could not answer, questions about politics or philosophy; then I have looked at them earnestly, unsmiling, as if their expected reply were important to me. No baby-talk, no coo-cooing. Without variation, their responses have been “adult”: serious, almost struggling to help me in my problem. That means something about discourse.
To end, a delightful poem that I had never read before going through the interview. Instead of quoting after, I'm going to quote before:
There is a possible procedure that I do not consciously use: to bring into consideration an idea normally adult but not easily or commonly expressed by adults, then search for a child’s voice and child’s situation to develop that idea.
This is a concept I delight in and pursue; anyone who's followed my writing at least sparingly understands this. For skeptics regarding the effectiveness of the child's view, as well as those who merely wish to read a great poem:
Daniel Is Six
When Daniel is six
all people should know it:
the trees show it,
the winds blow it;
nothing will be quite the same:
even Daniel’s very name
will stretch and seem to make a sound
every time he writes it down
or squeezes it into the air
or combs it through his changing hair.
He was five
and will be seven.
There is nothing under heaven
more of miracle than that
except that Daniel one day sat
upon his bed and combed his hair
and dreamed of what was changing there.
By James Emanuel
Read the interview. Oh, and I suppose it's October
now (the Month couplet from October is my favorite)- time for Halloween and whatnot. Maybe I'll be Mickey Mouse or something.