Friday, April 26, 2013

Poetry and the Ant Tracks of Writing

This post is my musing about the workshop, "Your Ability to Write a Poem is Always Present," I'll be giving next Friday for the Massachusetts Poetry Festival. 

Is poetry different when it comes to mindful writing?
Any act of writing leads to a structure that can be quite different from ordinary spoken language. It's different because of that intricate use of time to create the text (those unseen ant tracks made by the author, the recursive nature of writing/revising/editing/writing/etc.) The time factor of literacy allows us to rework our language, adjust our phrases, make changes without a listener standing around, waiting for us. We have the leisure to tinker, to be by ourselves and our words.
To some extent, because of those ant tracks, all writing (no matter the genre) has captured the intrapersonal dynamic and the privacy inherent to writing. This happens even if only for a few seconds, as when composing an email that's immediately sent. As long as there's the capacity to delete & edit & add before another person encounters your words, the chance for internal dialog arises. This is part of the Present moment of writing.
The use of page space and line breaks--as well as the typical brevity of a poem in contrast to other types of writing--make poetry much more about those omissions, those silences, those big phrases of privacy. The intrapersonal dynamic is heightened with the genre of poetry.
We're also much more likely to think of a poem as a system of sounds (and thus occurring in time) than other genres. This helps accentuate the Present moment.
Mindfulness has the potential to alter the nature of our internal communication. By training in mindfulness practice, we become more aware of that internal dialog. So does the writing of poetry: it can alter our internal dialog by drawing our attention to it.
In fact, if you want to become a more mindful writing, no matter what genre you consider to be your mainstay, no matter if you are a novelist or even a blogger, trying out poetry can help develop your awareness.

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