Poetry Prompt: Breaking the Sentence, Breaking the Sense

I used to write Morning Pages.  Religiously.  I think I wrote for an hour every morning, fast and without pondering.  Julia Cameron said it would help me learn to know my inner artist, and so I did it.  That was about fifteen years ago, and I was writing many poems during that year and finding richness in the writing.  Ask me why I stopped and I can fire off a dozen excuses, some of them actually sort of reasonable.

Just a few weeks ago, at a writers’ retreat in York, John Terlazzo asked us do a similar process in response to several writing prompts, and then encouraged us to pick it up as a daily practice.  And so I have taken up the practice again.

Yesterday, this came out on the page as I was writing: “The idea is that I am trying to break up the sentence, to pull back that veil of sense that covers my brain.  To let myself go.”  One of my favorite ways to write poetry is to string apparently unrelated images together, collage-style, until a unified and profound whole emerges.  I have been wanting to take this process a step further and string words and sounds together in a similar way.  I’m not quite ready for my shoo-be-do-be-doo poem.  And I found that even breaking the sentence was challenging for me.  I’m still stringing images together.  But I’m getting there.  And I want to take it further.

Then this lovely quotation visited my Facebook Feed yesterday.  I agree with many of the people who responded when I posted it (find that conversation here) that many scientists and mathematicians value poetic language to describe the world they explore.  But the basic idea, of the poet approaching truth through paradox–that grabs me:

“It is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox.

“T. S. Eliot said that in poetry there is ‘a perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations.’ It is perpetual; it cannot be kept out of the poem; it can only be directed and controlled.

“The tendency of science is necessarily to stabilize terms, to freeze them into strict denotations; the poet’s tendency is by contrast disruptive. The terms are continually modifying each other, and thus violating their dictionary meanings.”

—Cleanth Brooks, “The Language of Paradox”

This will be my homework for myself in the next few days, for Monday’s poem:

Poetry Prompt:
To write without stopping for half an hour each day for the next three days, ignoring sentence sense, trying to bring myself into a patter-spatter of images and words.  To break the sentence, to step behind the veil of sense.  Then, sometime on Monday, to glean a poem from among those writings.  Will you join me?


Groundhog skull an Goddess Potato:2013 March 098

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