On Writing poetry


A Note to my self and my fellow writers:

On writing poetry

To begin a poem you must know that everything is possible, all images are available, metaphor is everywhere, every word, known or unknown, is at your disposal. To finish a poem you must discover that only one form is possible, and at each moment, one metaphor, one image, one particular word, and one only will do. You begin in absolute and passive openness, you end in absolute and particular concentration. You open with availability, You finish with fidelity.


Filed under imagination, literature

27 responses to “On Writing poetry

  1. Larry Campbell

    that’s powerful and fascinating…partly as a piece of instruction but mostly as inspiration. thanks

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Larry. I’ve decided to try some short prose aphorisms trying to say something worthwhile as concisely as possible. This is the fist one.

  2. Oh, yes. And if this can be applied to longer works – novels – (and I think it can) then reaching the end and realizing you have to tweak and edit all those 90,000 word choices can be enough to drive a person mad.

  3. Bethany

    I could be wrong, but I feel like this is helpful to focusing my prose as well.

  4. I feel this is also the case when writing Sunday’s sermon…which I am currently attempting to bring to fidelity! Thanks for these words of inspiration!

  5. Wow you are a word warrior! This post may also be an analogy for life, what do you think?

  6. What I think you are getting at is that there is a sense of inevitability when you get the poem right. My hobby is writing new tunes to old hymn lyrics. When I write the new tune, it sits in “the oven” cooking for awhile, until I get that sense that the melody, rhythm, harmony, all fit with the lyric, and flow together inevitably. When I know it still needs to stay “cooking” is that I will hum the tune and something does not feel right about it. When it is right is when I catch myself humming the tune, and wondering where it came from, and realizing I had written it. It then comes out of the oven.

  7. Thanks for this, Malcolm. I hope to see more “poetic process” blogs in the future. I’m always looking for insight which can resource my imagination for making.

  8. “the fist one” yes powerful and beautiful!
    I also like the image of the oven! Frank Fortunato, “a bun in the oven” creation by excellence.

  9. Delightfully helpful words! I had been thinking about Frost’s quote, something like, “You begin in delight, and end in wisdom”. Thank you.

  10. Malcolm Guite has set a very high bar in his Note. For it was by like parameters that the best Classical Verse was `kenned’..Greek,Sanscrit or Persian.
    Once the Verse had been wrought,it was devoid of superfluity,allowed for no substitution of word/metaphor, nor was any `space’ in evidence for embellishment.

    Our Lady is truly with the Poet!

  11. … and not only the words; but also the pauses, the breath. thank you, Malcolm.

  12. Hey, Malcolm, thanks for the follow on my blog! I have been bemoaning the fact that I can’t go to Kindlingsfest this year – it’s always so encouraging to hang with like-minded people on Orcas Island!

  13. With counsel like that (and the comments) i think i might try to write my first poem. Thanks Malcolm.

  14. I am, probably by most measures, more a writer of prose than of poetry, but I find what you have stated here to be absolutely true for me none-the-less! And I also love the idea of saying something very grand with a few words as possible. I think there is an art to it, for sure. So glad I found you here Malcolm.

  15. So glad to have found your blog through a friend today!
    I love those expansive, open beginings, not always so good at bringing them to prescise endings though šŸ™‚

  16. So glad I found your blog through a friend today!
    I love those big, open, expansive beginnings of a poem, even if I don’t always suceed at bringing them to a tidy conclusion šŸ™‚

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