I’m really bad at keeping a diary. I’ve always wanted to maintain one, but it always falls apart after a couple of weeks. It’s not that I don’t have anything interesting to say, its the more to do with the form – the whole self-reflexive thing makes me uncomfortable. At the same time, in the last few weeks I’ve found myself struggling with poetry. I sit down to write, and the pressure of ‘sitting down to write a poem’ hits me.
I’ve found a solution – and that’s to go back to the very beginning; a poetry diary. Rather than write a diary in the standard prosaic self-reflexive sense – Dear Diary – I’ve now taken to sitting down at the end of the day, and writing down what I see and sense in a poem. I did this years ago – in fact, it was how all of this began. I started taking notes and writing lines in a small black notepad. Eventually, I introduced dates, so as to find things better. Back then I wasn’t writing for any purpose, and I’d never dreamed of being published, so it was genuine expression.
It’s a little harder now. Having studied writing and produced poems both for university and for specific themes in magazines, I’ve begun to understand how writing can become mechanical. That quote about the process being ‘99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’ is helpful, but also dangerous. You can write yourself out of existence, you can write so much that the words no longer make sense on the page, you can write until the process of writing become more apparent than the content of the writing itself.
That’s where I was, I think, a couple of weeks back. I could only see the structure behind the poem, and the form started to heavily dictate the development of the piece. As the content began to slip, I put all my energy behind making the poem more traditionally poetic – emphasising rhyme, sound and rhythm. The unfortunate consequence of this is that the poem becomes shell-like; it has a firm and solid exterior but an unsatisfying interior.
So I’ve picked up on an old habit. Writing a solid number of lines at the end of the day only for me. It’s helping too – both to maintain a diary of the things I experience daily, as well as to identify those things I still value in poetry. It’s a very genuine form of expression, and I’m finding myself again. Lost in the labyrinth of my own words.