Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Asparagus, Less Detroit

I've been thinking about the different processes involved in poetry and painting. Specifically, about the planning of each.

With poems, I often come up with one line (or rather, one line comes to me) and write toward that line or idea. There is a destination, and the terrain comes clear as I track toward it.

Sometimes, this can be a problem, since the single line can be like Detroit: You see its skyline off in the distance and it seems interesting, but once you get there, you're like, "Oh. This is not where I want to be."

Then you have to backtrack and realize that you really wanted to go to this little roadside fruit stand near Lake Michigan. Or you realize that the whole trip was wasted and you're stuck in Detroit, looking at shut-down auto factories.

With paintings--or at least the kind I'm doing right now--there is very little planning. I take a canvas or sheet of paper, I mark the center of my circle, I decide on the first color I want to use. Almost everything after that seems to happen without thinking. My mind goes to a completely different space; it is almost glandular. Yesterday, for example, I was looking at a square of warm gray paper. For a moment, there was nothing, and then several hours later, there were crescents in a bright shade of magenta and swirls of white.

And then with the one pictured here, suddenly there were asparagus tips. I didn't even realize they were there until the whole thing was done.

I would really like it if more poems came to me like that. Once or twice, it has happened, but lately, I can feel myself trying to write, and when that happens ... Hello Detroit, I'll be here all week!

What comes to you when you write? Can you plan your poems? Does it work?

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