Poetic inspiration

The Hobgoblin posted on what it’s like when his unconscious mind takes over in the writing process, and then I came across this poem by Jane Kenyon, entitled “Who”:

These lines are written
by an animal, an angel,
a stranger sitting in my chair;
by someone who already knows
how to live without trouble
among books, and pots and pans ….

Who is it who asks me to find
language for the sound
a sheep’s hoof makes when it strikes
a stone? And who speaks
the words which are my food?

She’s talking about the same thing the Hobgoblin is, I think — what it’s like when another part of the writer, the unconscious mind perhaps, takes over. Oh, and I just remembered that this same thing happened to the main character Ka from Orhan Pamuk’s novel Snow. Ka is a poet and periodically throughout the novel he’ll feel a poem coming on, like a sneeze, so he’ll stop whatever he’s doing and write. He writes a whole book of poems this way.


Filed under Books, Poetry, Writing

4 responses to “Poetic inspiration

  1. What a terrific poem. This is absolutely what happens to me as a writer. Someone(thing?) just completely takes over describing that old sheep hoof. No stopping her, so I just surrender and see what happens. If I don’t surrender, she makes my life a living hell. However, letting her do her thing keeps both of us happy. It’s weird, though, because so many others describe writing as such a different process, the torture coming when they sit down to write, not when they don’t.


  2. It is interesting to ponder who that who is. And it’s not just when writing that this happens either, I think it is a characteristic of all creative endeavors.


  3. What was wrong with Blogger?


  4. Emily — Glad you liked the poem. I think it describes one way that people write, but I know not everyone works that way. I like the way the poem gets at the mysteriousness of the creative process, but it doesn’t say much about the hard work, does it?

    I agree Stefanie — people in all kinds of creative endeavors would probably recognize what Kenyon’s talking about.

    Minge — Blogger beta.


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