The last year hasn’t exactly been the most productive for me in terms of writing new poems. I have tried and mostly failed, with a few exceptions, but since the StAnza International Poetry Festival my mind has been buzzing. Buzzing too much really. I have begun to wish it would stop and just leave me alone although, no, I don’t really wish that because I know I have to write these pieces if I ever want an approximation of inner peace again! It’s partly the poetry and the creative inspiration from being in St Andrew’s and partly other things I’d rather not go into. I feel that talking too much about the content of a poem before writing it might either stall the poem or affect its fluidity i.e. fix it too early along a defined path. I like my poems to veer off the path, otherwise I could end up telling you what I already think or know, which probably isn't that interesting..
It’s strange how poems come. For the last week I’ve seen one poem form in my head, but only its shape. I could virtually see it on the page, an embryonic form, but there were no words at all (although what's inspired it is clear). That's until I woke up early this morning before 6am and, trying to get back to sleep, suddenly found four complete lines scratching themselves into my brain. I have now written them down on paper. I have modified them slightly from their initial near-dream state, but only for reasons of music and rhythm, not meaning. There a few small gaps as the line-breaks need to fall between specific words, but it’s the beginning of something. Not just a single poem, I’m pretty sure, but a sequence or cycle or series of connected poems.
Annoyingly, it’s not the one I most needed to get a move on with. I am appearing at the Hidden Door Festival on Tuesday 1st April. The festival is at the Edinburgh Vaults and promises to be the event of the year in the capital: art, music of all kinds, photography, poetry, other spoken word, all combining and often collaborating.
I am genuinely excited by the commission – to produce a poem to go along with a live performance by the Viridian Quartet of Steve Reich’s rarely performed work ‘Different Trains’, one of my favourite classical pieces. I have ideas and a few stray lines at the moment. It will be the first poem I have ever written that will require more than one voice to read it, that's a definite component. It’s quite a task to put it all together and the stress of having to produce the goods is building, not necessarily a bad thing.
I remember David Morley saying at a Stanza masterclass a few years ago that he likes to work on more than one poem at a time. If he can’t get one poem to inch forward, another one might do. Sound advice and one way to defeat writer’s block. What I’m hoping is that kicking off the first poem mentioned above will, in some alchemical way, feed into the creative process for the second very different kind of poem. Let’s hope...