Word Count- 820. Read at your own peril 🙂
“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
I read this quote today and it stuck with me. It stuck with me because it reminded me of a time a few years ago when I only wrote poetry as a means of expressing my emotions. It stuck with me, because over the years, I’ve come to see poetry more as an art and less as a blurb about my feelings. It also stuck with me because, for all my critical analysis of poems and poetic techniques, I still feel like whatever we write comes from a place deep within our hearts.
A fellow writer once told me that each and every one of his poems or writings was a piece in isolation. That he didn’t feel anything that was projected onto his work. That his writing was devoid of his yearnings. I was younger then, more naive and very gullible. He almost had me convinced. Why wouldn’t he? I loved his work. He was adept at making things come to life. And he truly is a master of writing. And yet, I remember spending long nights fighting him on it. I remember telling him that he’d been writing for so long, he’d learnt to call it technique. I also remember him crapping my claims. And the discussion had only ended when he played the card of my immaturity.
Today, I’d like to think, I’m slightly less naive and gullible. That I have a scintilla of insight into the world of words. And as much as I’d like to believe his assertion that poems are merely technique, I can’t. Cause, if writing was truly, merely a technique; if it were simply a matter of stringing words together, I wouldn’t sit and stare at my sheet of paper unendingly without any idea as to what I wanted to say.
I remember asking one of my favourite contemporary poets how he channeled his voice onto paper. And he’d said that you have to completely immerse yourself in an emotion and feel it to be able to write about it. He told me that sometimes, you have to turn off the editor in your head and you just have to write. I remember asking him what he did when he’d felt a burning need to pen something but halfway through it he didn’t know how to say it or there was too much to say or too little. He smiled, and told me something that helps keep me sane. He told me that sometimes external factors contaminate our emotion to such a degree that we can’t really pen it down. He mentioned “Daffodils” by Wordsworth as an apt example. He told me that Wordsworth had seen those daffodils on the hill a long time before he got down to penning the poem. At that moment, much as he’d have liked to, he didn’t write it. But years later, when the extraneous factors had diminished in strength, he remembered that excursion for what it truly was and distilled that one emotion into a poem.
Now, I’ve heard this same advice in a lot of spheres of life. And I know it by heart. And yet, somehow, I don’t always accept it. I don’t know if it was the not-condescending smile or the fact that my favourite poet took the time to satiate my curiosity or the fact that he sounded sincere or simply a combination of all three, that made me understand, but ever since then, I’ve become ok at leaving something half-written. I get back to it later. Sometime it tanks, maybe the emotion wasn’t strong enough. Mostly, by the end of the poem, I’ve said all I needed to without it rambling.
And this neatly sums up my dilemma. If it were merely technique, writing shouldn’t be so gut-wrenching. And if it’s merely about penning a strong emotion, it should be easy to pen when you’re deep in the throes of the feeling. Sadly, neither extreme worked for me.
Now I didn’t have either side to pick. I was way in the middle. Then this article popped up. This man was trying to provide amateurs like me an insight into the art of reading poetry. He makes sense in a strictly reading poetry kind of way. But more than that, he answered my dilemma. Poetry isn’t just about technique or emotions. It’s a fine balance of the two. It isn’t just about having something nice to say, it’s also about saying it beautifully.
“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; it takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquility.”
And what stands out for me is that this entire questioning of poetry took place over 2-3 years with numerous people and Wordsworth popped up everywhere. And it took me the course of these 800 words to make the connection.
I wonder what else Wordsworth had to say…