I don’t fish in the actual sense, but I have been thinking about poetry and fishing for the last few days, and this morning I read something about how poetry is both art and craft, both inspiration and work. Sometimes, it’s like the fish are just jumping out of the water, waiting for me to hold out my net and catch them. I love it when that happens. Sometimes I have to have two nets available to be catching them all as they rain past. It’s important not to get too attached to every fish I catch in this manner. Some are real stinkers, but occasionally I can catch a nice rainbow trout this way.
But more often than not, I just have to show up at the river, day after day, with my fishing rod, and sit there in the hot sun or under a shady tree, and wait and wait and wait. Lots of times, I’ll hook an old boot or funny piece of wood. Most of these things I’ll toss back, but some of them I can use. It’s particularly rewarding to catch a beautiful fish this way–the wait and the work of it makes it especially satisfying.
When I first started writing poetry as a teenager, I didn’t have time for revising or perfecting. I ended up throwing away most of that stuff when I reached my twenties. Then I got into a phase where I didn’t believe anything was truly good until it had been worked over and wrangled repeatedly. I sucked the life out of many a good poem that way.
I think sometimes really good poems do just drop out of the sky with little need for change. Most of the poems I write need a little more tweaking, though. During those times when they’re just jumping out of the lake, I need to just write it down like dictation without thinking about whether this is the perfect word, or whether the sounds work together or the rhythm is compelling. Then, when the rush and whoosh is done, I can go back and see what I have, and organize it into a more complete form.
The other night, half a poem jumped out at me that way. Had I not been on my way to an appointment, perhaps it would be complete, but now that I’ve lost the moment, I need to go back and sit by the river with this one, wait for inspiration to strike on the next line.
1. Milkweed everywhere
2. Quiet mornings
3. Super moon, though it does cause some sleeping difficulty
4. How inspiration strikes
May we walk in Beauty!