Sunday, July 29, 2007

What Governs Your Writing?

What poem, or lines from a poem, governs ('informs' might be a better word) what you write?

What I mean is – if you were asked to quote from a poem (or from a piece of prose) to express what writing poetry means to you, or what you wanted to achieve by writing, what lines would you choose?

Here’s mine:

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, ‘You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.’

The man replied, ‘Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.’

And they said then, ‘But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are.’

From The Man with the Blue Guitar, by Wallace Stevens.

Maybe post your lines on your own blog and let me know in the comments box. Or if you don’t have a blog, post them in the comments box direct. Of course, don’t post whole poems for copyright reasons.

12 comments:

Ben Wilkinson said...

An interesting topic to raise, Rob. I've duly posted on my blog; hope it gives some insight into what I think poetry can and should be doing.

Colin Will said...

You've really got me delving Rob, but I've given two examples on my blog. Of course, these are influences on a much younger version of me.

Anonymous said...

A poem of the mind/In the act of finding/What will suffice

Also Wallace Stevens, not sure the quote is 100% accurate esp the lineation & can't remember title.

James Midgley said...

The Stevens quotation is a good one -- since it's about mimesis, isn't it.

Not sure what I would choose -- maybe I'd cheat and use Ars Poetica!

James

James Midgley said...

Perhaps 'A poem should not mean, but be'.

James

C. Carter said...

It was a night of thaw, a night of blow,
With great excitement in the air. Black spring
Stood just around the corner, shivering
In the wet starlight and on the wet ground.
The lake lay in the mist, its ice half drowned.
A blurry shape stepped off the reedy bank
Into a crackling, gulping swamp, and sank.

- Nabokov through John Shade in Pale Fire

Rob said...

You know, these responses so far are even better than I could have hoped for. They are really interesting and none of them can be pinned down easily into a 'school' or 'movement'.

Thanks. And I hope there's more coming.

James Midgley said...

Well -- mine can be pinned to objective criticism, I suppose.

vmh said...

This resonates for most aspects of my life including my writing:

It is certainly not then - not in dreams - but when one is wide awake, at moments of robust joy and achievement, on the highest terrace of consciousness, that mortality has a chance to peer beyond its own limits, from the mast, from the past and its castle tower. And although nothing much can be seen through the mist, there is somehow the blissful feeling that one is looking in the right direction.
-Vladimir Nabokov,
Speak, Memory

Excellent question.
Vicky

Ed Parsons said...

I've made a start on my blog with some Empson. Can we have prose too, if sufficiently elegant?

Anonymous said...

"The cross, or whatever other heavy burden the hero carries, is himself, or rather the self, his wholeness, which is both God and animal -- not merely the empirical man, but the totality of his being, which is rooted in his animal nature and reaches out beyond the merely human to the divine."

Carl Jung (Symbols of Transformation)

In fact, "symbols of transformation" pretty much sums it up, even without the quote from it.

ABJ

Rob said...

Thanks again everyone. More good stuff.

Tony, you can use prose, no problem.

Interesting that so far there's two quotes from Stevens and two from Nabokov. Who could have predicted that?