I'm several weeks into The Artist's Way with my Ohio State students. We're taking a course — I'm supposedly teaching it — called Personal Creativity & Innovation at the Fisher College of Business.
Synchronicity is happening.
The book promises good things will come the reader's way as happy coincidences. I believe that such good things are coming our way all the time. The book just wisely trains us to look for them — and catch them as they otherwise sail past. It's great training for personal creativity.
Amid all the assignments in the book — morning pages and artist's dates and tasks and reading — and class discussions, I'm suddenly hearing a lot of messages about poetry.
In my three decades of being an English major, poetry hasn't come up much. 'Tis a pity.
Now however, it seems to be turning up all over the place, like so many dandelions on our spring lawn.
During the past several days:
- I turned on the radio and heard a poet describing how to write a poem. He offered (I wish I'd caught his name) some wonderful advice, including:
- Don't try to be clever and slowly reveal your subject. Just say it right out.
- The poet has to care more about the poem than about himself or herself. This means that the poem is not about the poet or the poet's enlightenment. The poem is about a place or thing or moment. Write about those. Let the poet disappear.
- If you memorize a poem, you will know more about it than the poet knows.
- I'm reading Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss which describes ten places that might be the happiest places on Earth. The author is now in Iceland, where all 300,000 residents write poetry — and it's a happy place, despite the cold and dark.
- A text from high school sits on my bedside table: Sound and Sense: An Introduction To Poetry, wherein Laurence Perrine describes how poetry works.
Oh, and now Billy Collins, the former Poet Laureate is coming to speak — tonight — in my neighborhood. I bought a handful of tickets for the family. (Want to come? Here are tickets.)
Summer School Is Coming.
Every year I have a list of things I want to learn during the summer.
This coming summer, I'm going to focus on learning how to write poetry. Synchronicity says, "Poetry. Write me."
I say, "O.K."
Here's a Billy Collins poem.
He must not be a very good poet: everything is always understandable.
"Introduction To Poetry"
by Billy Collins
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
Need an incentive?
If you recite this poem — or any poem — to me (from memory and with feeling), I will buy you a milkshake or beer, depending on your temperament.