Should have done laundry
But started scribbling in my notebook
By Mersedeh Khozin
December 18, 2001
There are many fine writing programs available in many colleges and universities,
seminars, and retreats across the United States, for a price. Money is of
course an issue with most people, but excluding that hitch, anybody can
be taught how to write various forms of modern or ancient poetry. The academics
are slick sellers and capable professors. Wear a beret to class and take
My viewpoint isn't about that. Let us accept the given: you can be taught
how to write acceptable, publishable poems (time-frame open). You can spend
most of your life in college writing environments, and maybe even be quite
happy and content and a proficient poet. Do it, and ignore this sh*t I'm
spouting. I don't care about you.
Introduction over. The Doors CD is too. It's 3:30 a.m., Sunday morning.
I'm tumbled out on the couch in my family livingroom. My parents are asleep
in their bedroom. My biological clock is not a normal clock. I was planning
to wash my laundry and go to bed, but started scribbling in my notebook.
A web-based literary magazine invited me by email to compose something for
the poetry essay workshop archives, AND a pipe-dream blooming through the
dust of Mars has opened though it's barely dawn.
Look, if you aren't astonished by personal karma, if humility hasn't
aged within your skull, stop reading this now. Buy a poetry-writing book.
America's libraries are the best on the planet, and there's always amazon
dot com, or Barnes and Noble. Go buy.
If, however, your senses transcend commercial politics and mass social
logic, allow me to blab a while. Relax, friend. Let me tell you about a
few natural laws of the universe and the life of a poet.
When I am in the act of writing a poem I try to stay open to the ideas,
images and words that flow naturally onto the page or computer screen. I
try to write once a day, whatever comes up on paper or goes onto the electronic
page, pretty much as it comes out. I have to watch the tendency to become
over-involved with my thinking mind at this point. It always wants to "improve"
what has come forth from the other mind, (soul, creative source, muse) whatever
you call it.
This is the challenge all of us face; making room for the creative imagination
and spirit to come through. At some later point, we then begin shaping and
developing the raw energy into a poem by drawing on the tools of the craft
of poetry. Balance and timing are essential. Too much rawness or too much
working-over weaken the work. Working a poem too soon with the conscious
mind kills the energy, and the mystery goes out of the poem.
As a beginner (and I hear from old-timers that this is a common problem
even for them) many of us tend to mess up good poems when we revise. I don't
have much advise to offer here since I am having real problems with this.
But at least I know what I want.
I want the reader to enter the poem through their senses and breath.
I think of a poem as a compressed storehouse of energy, emotion and thought.
The poet experiences something. By that I mean some event or circumstance
has dropped down into places within the consciousness of the poet where
it is transformed from event to experience. It has been altered and transformed
into an inner experience. It has been thought, felt, made alive.
Since we are writing poetry, we are interested in bringing forth that
experience in a way that produces experience in the reader. Maybe a different
experience because the reader brings his or her own history to the poem.
But if the poem does not enter the body, does not stir his or her imagination,
the poem fails. In order for a poem to enter the reader it has to have both
image and sound that resonate within the reader. We breathe the poems we
love, we eat them with our eyes. They send currents through our nervous
system and muscles. I want to write poems like that.
First thing, smoke marijuana. THC and poetry are inseparable. I realize
this is wrong of me to say, but poets are all very human. Forget the legal
or ethical aspects and just say yes to marijuana. Smoke a whole bunch. I
am not condoning under-age usage though. Those under 18: fall in love. Otherwise,
What I mean is corrupt thyself.
Veer from sanity.
The disease of innocence must be eradicated.
Whenever survival is easy, you are eating too much, living too well,
cocooned within the dark, dead womb of capitalism like a normal pupa inside
an empty TV void. If you crave and strive for comfort, I've lost another
reader. Fare ye well. Eat tofu and forget my name.
Is there still a person remaining who fits this essay's structure, this
continuing absolution? Have I purged all the unfaithful writers who stumbled
here this far?
There's an old Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times."
You are thusly cursed.
Light your pipe. Now write.