Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How to Conquer Writer's Block

So this one is blatantly inspired by last night's reading. Eva de la Lana was the featured reader; she's incredibly young, but very talented. She read a poem about writer's block, and then S. started writing one during the reading. And the last guy in the open mic (whose name I forget, but who was very good, and is a former winner of the Poetry Forum contest) read a poem about camels. So those two ideas, writer's block and camels (lovely, odd combination, eh?), made their way into this. I kind of like it, in an odd little way, and will probably read it next week, as a summer farewell to Larry's.

Oh, and the lines about a blank white page being a gift is a reference to one of my favorite quotes about writing which I stumbled across in college. It's by John Ciardi, a poet and translator, and I discovered the quote when I was doing research on holocaust poetry for my final paper in freshman English.

The quote is "that clean white paper waiting under a pen/ is a gift beyond history and hurt and heaven", from his poem "The Gift"

How to Conquer Writer’s Block

Wake up early
At least before noon.
Make coffee – a large pot, nice and strong.
Wash the week’s stack of dirty dishes.
Eat something – cereal or toast or even some leftovers.
You know you can’t write on an empty stomach.
Get dressed, walk the dog. This is not
Procrastination. You don’t want him interrupting you later.

Open the windows, even if it’s raining.
Turn on some music – something so familiar
You don’t even hear it. Sit down –
Don’t forget your coffee.
Think about smoking.
Aren’t you glad you quit?

You have your favorite pen, your little green notebook
Opened to that eternal gift –
A clean white page. It’s double-edged
Like any good knife as you stare the endless empty lines.
Wait for inspiration.
Sip your coffee. It’s still too hot.
Keep waiting.

Look out the window at the sun. Look at your dog
All content on the floor. Look at the steam
Rising from your coffee like a mirage.
See dancing girls in the steam,
Sunbeams reflecting off the coins on their belts.
Write about dancing girls. And the desert. Write
About the sand. Be sure to mention camels. Use the word
“undulate” but not about the dancers. Don’t talk about
Their breasts either, that’s too easy. Say that the sand
Is the color of dirty pennies as the sun sets,
The girls’ fingers are tiny snakes of fire.
Make up a dramatic ending, using night as a metaphor.

Sit back and read what you wrote.
You hate almost all of it. Drink some coffee,
Look at the one line you like.
It’s probably about the camels, not the girls.
Start over.
Write about camels instead.

No comments: