Art from the Subconscious

Article II

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WRITING POETRY   (My own  experience)

Some twenty five years ago , when I took an interest in poetry as
a form of expression, I trotted  off to the local library for books
on  the craft  of writing it. Very much the A.B.C.’s of  the subject.
I became almost transfixed, like a rabbit caught in the glare of  a
car’s headlights, steeped in such things as metrical feet, syllable
stresses,  alliteration, assonance and so on. What I wrote then
almost always turned out to be disjointed, repetitive, doggerel-like
even, lacking inspiration, counterpoint and having that concocted
feeling. An early discovery was that one cannot concoct a poem.
Early critiques indicated that my attempts were too restricted.
Not surprising, you might think, after my  familiarisation with the
craft and how it took hold of my endeavours. Someone  even
suggested that I should write in prose and then turn it into poetry.
The  value of the latter would later, help to free my writing, loosen
it up so to speak, but to this day I could never go about a poem by
transforming it from prose to poetry. It sounded then and still does
like that word concoct. In any event such a process seemed hopelessly
to interfere with what naturally flows from the subconscious. Some
call it the muse. I struggled with  such restrictions for some years
without any tuition, until I began to read some of the great poets.
Indeed I wondered then, how their work seemed  to flow effortlessly
within the parameters of the craft. If one reads and yes, even
remembers yards of material from various poets, it does have an
effect. I am always talking to my self in Eliot's words because I
have a passion for them.  Sometimes I even think I sound like him
though no doubt some critic will accuse me of exorsising his ghost!
I have no illusions  when it comes to that maestro! Such reading
does have an effect, if only to leave a certain dissatisfaction and a
filling of  the waste paper basket more often.

One day, something seems to emerge out of oneself, as if from the
subconscious. It seems to strike a balance between the restrictions
of  form and formlessness itself. One might get excited. Delusions
of grandeur might reign for a time, only to end up as what Larkin
calls, 'bitter stalks of dissapointment'. Breaking into free verse
or formlessness- fancying oneself as a Walt Whitman! Returning
to form again in varying degrees and then finding an equilibrium
for oneself. New trends set by Eliot and Auden yet for me both were
at their best, firmly within the crafted work of form. Larkin seemed
to me to be a great observer of life, say in his poems TOADS and TOADS
REVISITED. Two opposing views about work yet I wondered what his
own real views were on the subject-obscure as they are. As far as he
touched on metaphysics all seems a 'no go' area. E.g 'Church going'-
" someone will forever be surprising  a hunger in himself
to be more serious, and gravitating with it to this ground
that he once heard was proper to grow wise in" etc seems to tread
very lightly. Whereas Eliot is profound in mystical utterance-
"let the darkness be the light and the stillness the dancing".
All this understanding and reading, is part of one's own

Poets develop with time. I read some of Auden's first and second
drafts on his poem 'Lullaby'. I noticed that certain words were
missing and he had just filled them in with nonsense, until later
the right words appeared. The form and trochaic meter were all
there but seeing it all come to life was quite magical. Like the
painter with just the right brush stroke, so too, the poem. Integrating
in such a way that to try to say it another way just does not work.

My subject for poetry was always metaphysical, according to my
own awareness and understanding. Oftentimes controversial
in spiritual paradigms to a dualistic world but always at home
with the nondual world. So in the gradual 'freeing up' of my writings
I let, for example, lines end where it would seem natural for them to do so.
Occaisionally I would write in strict form, e.g. in my poem  NOT OF ERGOT
I write...........
"Am unready for the substance     - 8 syllables
  of the bodhi tree                              -5   "
  I will drink the cactus rain           -7
  and wait for glory,                           5

the same throughout the poem with spontaneous rhyme.
I look for the most part at nature, and
in so doing, find the similie, the metaphor which points to the metaphysic
I wish to express. Using the imagination in concert with the actuality,
remembering as a 'default' that all poetry must 'be rooted in earth' (L Berstein).
Technically, not too much adjective and let the verb do it all. Some poets have
a particular bent on enhancing and praising what is seen and must, by definition
use a lot of adjectives and do it superbly. If the work is not good it can end up
like a list! I have always found the most moving poetry simplicity itself. If it
looks easy,  try to write it! Clever poetry is of the brain but seldom moves
the heart. Of course one could argue that that was not it's intention, but you
get the point?  My poem below,  CATS  EYES, reflects on timelessness and
omnipresence in a contemporary setting.
"Cats eyes reflect
we are the cause and the effect
of all this busy motion,
the crazy notion
that fosters need
for all that speed;
is there a spot
where we are not
or time to waste?
Lets not make haste
that we prefer
out timelessness
to covered miles,
our omnipresence
to a blur!
The second poem seeks out the sage paradigm of 'no self' realisation in
a natural setting-in contrast with the ego self -a stream of memories
not present at birth or at ones demise.
"In my imaginative mind
the wind said 'break away, let go.
for what you are is never seen,
your world is what you think, you know,
you spirit,  lighter than the leaf,
the promise of a tender shoot,
be done  with that which has no self
that grips so lightly at the root,
I'll sweep you from this dormant scene
and drop you in the evergreen,
for what you are must wake-as spring-
the I in every living thing.' "

To sum up my own experience of writing poetry I would say, initially that one
must have some understanding of the craft, in order to get a degree of freedom
from it. One's own style, of course, will develope. One must have a passion
for what one wants to say. In younger poets perhaps 'not a lifeteime burning
in every moment' but definitely an ability to SEE, when the brain is relatively
quiet.  If you do not like what you have written,  bin it.
Finally I am mindful of a poem I wrote dedicated to J D Krishnamurti where I
          "As morning shafts the golden mosque
to bless the dust,
           that haze of jewels is all I need
to gain my trust.

thank you.

 Roy  K  Austin.  you can read my pages
if you would like to
or contact me on



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All poems and article text copyright © R.K.Austin.
2006. All rights reserved
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