Poetic Process

Looking Under the Hood (Poetically Speaking)

Open hood of carThis is an exercise … maybe even an adventure. I thought I’d invite you along with me as I make a blog post … and, hopefully, a poem. 

I have nothing particular in mind to write about … Oh, wait—I just remembered something. When I returned from my walk tonight I felt very good, but very tired, sweaty, and mortal. At that point, I envisioned the hokey idea of writing a poem that had M-O-R-T-A-L as the beginning letters of the lines. So let me set that down and play with some thoughts:

M uscles respond to exertion
O ld though they are
R ushes of exhilaration
T blah-blah-BLAH-blah-BAR
A ging
L

Okay, so here I pause, because I’ve gotten bogged down. Part of my mind wants to fling out rhyme-words. Another wants to think things through. There are other urges to still all mental activity and wait for a prompt from mystery/muse.

I seem to be headed for a rhyme scheme of ABABCC. But I’m always less concerned about fitting words to patterns than discovering something meaningful to say. I consider silliness meaningful, by the way.

M uscles respond to exertion
O ld though they are
R ushes of exhilaration
T blah-blah-BLAH-blah-BAR
A ging is a minor thing
L earned

Okay, some sense of direction is coming through the fog. Lately I have been feeling great physically and marvelling that it’s so, because in younger years I figured I’d be pretty decrepit by now. Near-daily walking and near-vegetarian eating account for a lot of this, plus good genes, luck, and persistence.

Now I’ll sift my memory for possibly usable words that rhyme with “are,” such as far, mar, par, star, war. Hmmm—”bizarre” comes to mind. Let me check a rhyming dictionary (pause), which results in: nothing, except maybe the phrase “so far.” Let’s tinker a little:

M uscles respond to exertion,
O ld though they are.
R ushes of exhilaration
T ake the body far—
A lmost to that something state
.  llowing
.  long a path of
.  ging slows something-ly
L earned
.  ost

There must be some statement I can make under these constraints and possibilities.

M uscles respond to exertion,
O ld though they are.
R ushes of exhilaration
T ake the body far—
A lmost to that youthful state
L oved, near-lost, blah-BLAH bla-BATE.

Now I’m trying to say something true-for-me and pithy in that last line. There doesn’t seem to be much wiggle-room. But the whole poem remains malleable until the end. The one stable element, by my choice, is the M-O-R-T-A-L framework. Once again, I’ll review rhyming words for inspiration. “State” rhymes with: date, fate, great, late, wait, abate, create, elate, etc.

M uscles respond to exertion,
O ld though they are.
R ushes of exhilaration
T ake the body far—
A lmost to that youthful state
L AH-lah can alone create.

Oh, dear. Right now, filling in that L-word seems like an impossibility. Still, I’ll try, if only to rule out the option: Loving, Longing, Learning, Laughter, Life-X, Loss-X, Let-X, Lying. This is no good. I’m relying on a word to create a sense of rightness and completion. That’s rather backwards to figuring out what, if anything, can alone create a youthful state and applying an L-word to that.

What alone can create a youthful state? Rebirth? Judgment? Hallucination? Self-deception? Joy? Maybe the word “youthful” could be changed to “vital”?

Suddenly, a wrap-up solution came into my head. The result will not be something wonderful, but it will provide enough closure that I can let the poem ride, at least for now. Oh, NO! In the time-span of writing that last sentence, I forgot the solution. Incredible. (Sigh.) Well, then, I’ll pick up the word “vital” and make the best of it:

M uscles respond to exertion,
O ld though they are.
R ushes of exhilaration
T ake the body far—
A lmost to that vital state
L iveliness alone creates.

The title is the last chance I have to shift the sense of the poem. It’s the part I like best because I like to wring out as much usefulness as I can and, hopefully, end up with something playful, pithy, or profound. Tonight, I may only get pitiful, but I’ll have a go at it for the sake of this exercise. I’m discovering how hard it is to create a poem and comment on it at the same time. Creative flow is definitely affected.

Some word and thoughts for theme and title come to mind: youthfulness, paradox, age/aging, enliven, exercise/exercised, leading, rejuvenation, juvenile, time, remedy. Now there will be a pause while I just let my mind roam … or sit still. “Letting Death-Thoughts Die” appears for starters, then:

DEATH MUST DIE
GETTING EXERCISED ABOUT DEATH
“IT TAKES LIFE TO LOVE LIFE” (Edward Arlington Robinson)
CHOOSE LIFE
LIFE IS ITS OWN ELIXIR
LIFE IS THE CURE-ALL
“IT’S ALIVE!”
LIFE ENLIVENS
DEAD TO DEATH
(Here I realize this whole poem is anti-M-O-R-T-A-L and, hence, a contradiction.)
THE LIVING DEAD
PHOENIX FACTOR
NEGATING DEATH
RESURRECTION
DENIAL OF DEATH

I’ve reconsidered one thing, namely that I prefer “youthful” to “vital,” because “vital” is so redundant. And all of a sudden, a title springs to mind. I like it for its twist.

FORTUNE OF REVERSAL

Muscles respond to exertion,
Old though they are.
Rushes of exhilaration
Take the body far—
Almost to that youthful state   
Liveliness alone creates.

Spacing removed, the M-O-R-T-A-L framework becomes more sublte and less hokey, almost like an insiders’ secret only alert readers share.

With that, I’ll post and call it a night. I’m satisfied with the exercise and its result. Thanks for coming along for the ride. ♥ ~Jo

Photo Credit: Open Car Hood by Click at morguefile.com

* * *

3 thoughts on “Poetic Process

  1. Valerie

    I do not like watching reality tv. However, one show I have grinned at the few times I have caught it is Project Runway. When I can get past the catty fights, I do enjoy it because it sheds a light on the creative process, which I enjoy understanding in people with creative talent.

    Like you. This was interesting.

    Reply
    1. wayaclan Post author

      Right, Val. It’s why I like occasional peeks at musical and theatrical rehearsals. They demonstrate how much thoughtfulness and how many choices go into a final performance. Same thing in other disciplines, like your own.

      Reply
  2. Keli

    Loved seeing your process. It makes me want to do two things–do this exercise myself and pay closer, intentional attention to my own processes. Great post. Thanks.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Keli Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *