Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Benign neglect

Nothing is happening... and yet there is a faint tickle in my hind brain. Is it a poem? I don't know yet but it tastes like a poem - or more accurately, it is only yet like the fleeting taste that passes across my tongue when a memory is triggered. The sort of fleeting taste that is like the sudden hint of long-roasted dinner brought to mouth by a certain quality of dull winter light on a Sunday afternoon.

Poems taste like iron; they taste like blood smells. The taste comes first; later there is a sense of the sound by which I don't mean meter or the shapes of words but just a sense of how a line rises and falls, quickens and slows. After these I can start to look for the words that fit.

But for now, there is just a tickle and a hint of taste and it's skittish: if I examine it, it may vanish. Is this superstition? Maybe, I don't know. It is like a nervous kitten that might approach and sniff at your hand if you don't look at it or make any sudden movements. I have to acknowledge it though, and leave it some sort of still space for it to thrive; I have to know that it's there and not crowd it out with writing I have to do for work or thinking about a paper that needs writing.

The vet I go to favours what he calls 'benign neglect' in some situations: he means to wait, watch, and don't interfere - let an illness run its course unless intervention is clearly needed. It occurs to me that benign neglect is what I have to do at this stage.

Part of me is also fascinated by the way this happens and I want to track the process if I can do so without interfering in it. Yet it is true that observing causes change by the presence of the observer.

Kittens and vets, tastes and smells; these seem odd ways to write about process and maybe unbearably twee - yet theoretical language about creative process feels too cold and mechanical. In reality, I don't have the language to talk about this part of the process because it is a wordless genesis; this seems very odd, that what may result in a thing made of language should start for me without words.

In the meantime, it may be a poem... trust the process, trust the process


  1. This sounds like a poem coming on. But trying to track its genesis as it breaks through your consciousness seems like NOT trusting the process. Don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Just be thrilled when it comes and do your stuff.

    I've had three months of absolute zilch poem-wise and then recently two sonnets within one week. And I wasn't trying. They just came and asked to be written.


  2. "Don't kill the goose that lays the golden egg"

    Oh, I know, Duncan. Creative process is something I am always interested in, though - and while I want to just let it happen (and know I must if a poem is to result from it), part of me also stands back and finds it intriguing.