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Saturday, 25 July 2009
Writer's Block - and how to beat it.
A brick wall. Shutters slammed down in the mind.
Apathy. A white-out in a snow-storm.
Arranging dead geraniums on graves.
No ideas to play with. Metaphors. All
heard invoked describing writer's block. For
me its different: less like a block, much
more like boggy ground: it pulls and sucks to
drag the heels until all movement ceases.
Last time attempting a new poem... those
great paintings by Cezanne of Mont Sainte-Victoire -
long the object of a strong desire to
write its story, how he had constructed,
stone by stone from deep within, a wonder so
confectionary-soft and succulent, the
joy of architects and chefs alike, of
engineers, of milliners and florists.
Words oozing from a verbal quagmire shook
themselves like dogs to dry - and
in the course of doing so, arranged them-
selves in rough-and-ready matrices. But
for a dose of writer's block they would have
morphed into a warp, which would in turn have
spun a weft, with arrows linking word with
word and hitting new words off them. Fabric
for a poem taking shape. Alas, the
block ensured no magic drove them on; the
words remained just words and failed to morph; the
poem was still born. The lines seemed torn from
other and quite unrelated poems,
I have a strategy for such - I've several.
All variations on a Break the Pattern theme.
Something's out of kilter? So you push it further out,
make it more extreme, more experimental,
more avant garde: see what I mean?
See where it leads.
Forget about Write what you know. Do the reverse.
Write about whatever has escaped you totally.
Translate a poem from Old English - or from
Middle English, come to that. No matter that they're
not familiar. Let the words suggest what they
suggest, and write it down. Or simply play around with
style and lineation. Or choose a register not yours.
Try the vernacular if that seems strange, or
break lines short
and start some centre-page.
Choose a poet you find
become your model.
This often frees the pen
before it runs aground
Then finally, when all else fails
(last throw of the dice), try this:
write a poem about writer's block - it
hardly ever fails!