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Kevin Hull

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Who Does The Creating Here?
by Kevin Hull   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, December 18, 2006
Posted: Thursday, October 02, 2003

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Kevin Hull

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I have heard, from a friend and good poet, the phrase "then I try to make a poem." But isn't it the other way around? This is my question.

I have been writing poetry, so-called, for over twenty years, and I find myself no closer to the mystery of creation than on the first day when I found myself alone with my own voice speaking a quiet and sure phrase of Being, and feeling that something had transpired -- and that it was good. Do we now content ourselves with piecing together the best lines, searching for the startling phrase whether it all fits together or not?

I think not. We can not write our way into genius any more than we can force God's Grace. As if we were in control. At best we can nurture the field; plant the seeds, water them and hope the sun will shine sufficiently to give us a good crop. But it must be our crop, for better or worse --it must reveal who we wanted to be. This is why I denigrate 'poetry workshops' in general and MFA programs specifically. I mean to say that they may be nice places to share work, ideas, and all the personal minutia that sometimes leads to brief moments of pleasure. But then what? Better to take a few excellent books, a journal, a few pencils, and disappear into the wilderness, of one's soul. . .Poetry is not taught but caught, for no amount of brilliant teaching can impart the love and passion necessary to persevere year after year when the emptiness of the page begins to feel like 'white-out' in a strange country overwhelmed by a sudden blizzard that no one predicted. All you can do is do the work of being a better human being, learn the rudiments, read, practice and practice some more, and try to find out who you really are and what you stand for: be prepared for total anonymity, disappointment, poverty, self-doubt, and mind-numbing depression. Then if after all this you're lucky or unlucky enough to have become a genuine artist --then remember 'to edit yourself in all things.' This may help you retain at least a shred of humility -- a quality that may save you in the end. For narcisism and self-importance will surely kill you, slowly, insidiously, like a tumor you never suspected until it was too late. The list of bad poetry is quite extensive; even work written by masters of prose. So, study life, be who you are, and if you wish to be a poet, learn to wait, to really have that moment (you will know it when it comes) that will reveal your own beautifully unique voice. I wish you good luck in this process. Remember, you are one of a kind -- why settle for beautiful imitation? Better to compose a single authentic poem in all the years of your life (one you would be willing to chisel onto granite) than to churn out the commonplace, the abstract and stylish that so often fools the fools into praise. Treat praise like the secret poison it is. Listen to yourself, then listen again and again -- the truth will be revealed. Good hunting, pilgrim. 

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Reviewed by Leland Waldrip 10/4/2003
Thanks, Kevin, for voicing some of my own thinking along these lines. Perhaps your friend meant that by concentrating on a specific area, his "muse" would rise to the occasion. It may be dependent on the poet's style. Anyway, for good or bad, I sometimes find that works. But you are right, the germ of a particular idea typically pops into my head without warning. As far as formal education in the specific field of poetry is concerned (MFA, etc.), any gain is probably due to the exposure to new ideas and the exercises that broaden one's perspectives. My one-sided opinion is that I don't need to specifically pay for that if I keep my eyes and brain open to the world about me.
Anyway, good article. I enjoyed it.
Best regards,
Reviewed by ya mama (Reader) 10/3/2003
I agree with you. though I would go as far to say that poetry can't be taught, there are those who can help you polish your craft, or try to anyway. I have always believed that the poet creates itself, and the poet is a vessel. Charles Simic has a great quote on the subject matter: "It took me years to admit that the poem is smarter than I am." So when the poet stated "I try to make a poem," it is the ego getting in the way of the truth.

The writing exercise mentioned is not an exercise of throwing lines together, it is not a "found poem" in a somewhat traditional sence, but an exercise to delve deeper into the subconscious. To pull out the poems that are hidden, the poems that you fear to let loose, and we all have them.
Reviewed by Kate Clifford 10/2/2003
A wise sharing of thoughts. I often wonder where the thought or inspiration comes from.
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