Originally posted on April 27, 2011 at 9:14 AM
Today’s guest post courtesy of Beth Honeycutt.
“Pay attention!” I can still hear the voices of teachers remonstrating with students in classrooms all the way through college, to just pay attention. Not that they were going to charge us anything! I never really gave it too much thought because I was one of those introspective types that loved to think, learn and otherwise reach the expectations my mentors held for me. But now that I am looking at life in ways that challenge me to be alert and attentive, I think those teachers and professors were charging me with something. Something I have found to be vital as a poet: being attentive.
Robert Frost worked at his poetry while admitting that there were other poets who could just pull a poem, as it were, out of a pocket and go on about their day. I too, am one who usually works at the art of writing poetry, trying out words or phrases, always listening for that unusual application or twist of meaning that feels fresh and ‘right’.
When I take time to see and hold those moments in each day or in each hour that slip unnoticed into my realm of experience and then pay attention to what I am sensing: being attentive, alert, present, ‘in-the-now’ and intentionally experiencing the world around me, I am then in touch with that muse of poetic offerings. I have discovered, also like Frost, that I rarely start a poem “whose end I know” but I am off and writing what I experience. That is part of the fun of writing – the discovery of the end of the poem!
I was as surprised as my critique group when a whole series of poems began to appear last year in my weekly writings that included dragons, elves, and magical elements that I had no idea I would be writing about. But that is what I sensed and then wrote when I was in this place of writing intentionally without knowing the end of my poems. Is there a market for speculative poetry, you might wonder? Yes. There is a market for good poetry that is written in the moment that grabs not only the writer but the reader, too.
How did I start, you wonder? I simply began to pay attention to that voice inside my head. Yes, the one that can rattle on and on; we all have it. However, I have found that that voice is, for me, a voice of wisdom and of story.
A nature lover, I have stood in my backyard and noticed leaves that begin to blow in the wind as if gusting from the down draft of a dragon’s wing on take off. I have driven by the towers of the universities in town and watched as the aerie emptied itself of dragons (birds), while three grandmother trees leaned their arthritic limbs toward the moat of the towers…I have seen fog become the flour dusted off of a cake baked by an apothecary’s wife…and watched a thatched roof house burn to the ground…all within moments of pure intention, just watching and listening as the creative voice expanded from one idea to another.
I find I am also challenged to write spiritual poetry. Yes, the type that bares my soul, not as a confessional might, but as an extension of the wonder I experience when I am – you guessed it! Paying attention. When I am fully present, I sense and then write what is true at that moment. How odd, you might say. Perhaps. But for me that is what it is. There is a quality about being totally present that calls me to write, and a regular meditation practice lends itself to a poetic voice that also explores the spiritual.
Skye Jethani, in his book The Divine Commodity, supports the use of the imagination in conjunction with the spiritual, and with a personal practice in the healing arts of energy medicine, making that connection from the imaginative to the spiritual is a short step for me when I am being aware of life: within me, around me, and as me.
I suggest you try it, this paying attention, and notice what you notice. I find it challenging to live in the moment, but ever so rewarding. Most artists are that way when the muse is present: so sings the musician, so shoots the photographer, so writes the poet. When you write, be present to where you stand in the story as narrator or as participant. Notice what age you are, what you hear around you, what colors you sense, and incorporate these imagines in your writing. What are you wearing? Is your family around? What is the weather? What shoes do you have on? Now try writing from a new perspective.
When I am present and alert, the world becomes more alive to me, and then there is that much more about which I may write! I urge you to try it: be attentive, and see what comes. You may not write poetry, but you might hear another calling to be true to something that lives within; you might incline yourself to touch that Infinite inside you that is ready to be brought into the light, and end up surprising yourself with wonder.
Ah, be ready for wonder. I rather like that as a motto, and it certainly works well as a closing thought. Be…ready for wonder, and may you live deeply connected to the present!
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Beth, at times, seems like a spirit scarcely contained in a body. Her poetry is all that statement promises: descriptive, ethereal, and lovely. But her kindness and critique are both grounded in reality, and my poetry thanks her for that. She always finds a way to deliver her critique without ruffling feathers, while dishing the truth, and still appreciating the uniqueness and message of other poets’ work. I am happy to have her as friend, fellow poet, and critique partner.
Beth Honeycutt is graced with good health, a happy home, husband, two kids and a dog that all support her writing and her own search for meaning. Although her poetic publications began in college, she stopped writing for several years. However, she has won awards for her writing and now has poetry in publications such as BorderSenses, the Wichita Falls Literature & Art Review, two Texas Poetry Calendars by Dos Gatos Press, The April Perennial, two of the PST’s A Book of the Year, Voices Along the River, as well as the up-coming Spring/Summer issue of Ilya’s Honey.Share this: