Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Jamie Townsend : coda

How does a poem begin?

I’m not always sure and tbh the idea of poems beginning and ending has always challenged me. One thing I really love about John Wieners is that he continued to work on his poems ever after they were published, so you can look through his various selected/collected and sometimes find different versions of the same poem. This has definitely alleviated a certain anxiety of the “finished” piece and has led to a more honest and less fraught life in reading/writing.

That being said, I think that a lot of poems start themselves – an overheard phrase, an odd line that appears in your head, an itch that can’t be scratched. I feel like I’ve conceded to the fact that poems have their own lives and pace outside of my desires and that I can’t force one into being; I’ve never been a disciplined writer in the sense of scheduling time to write, I just need to be ready to write. But, in another sense, I’m always writing or at least trying to always stay attentive to what’s happening outside my own head. The mystery of writing a poem and the journey of working through one, the give and take, the oscillations of clarity and opacity, and listening and speaking, still thrills me even after doing it regularly for the last 20 years. 

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