I’ve tried many times to tell myself what poetry is, but perhaps it’s a momentary possession of the mind. I’ve gotten to this point when I can feel a poem coming on, the way some epileptics talk about seeing coronas, or neurotics sense waves of panic building. My thoughts ramp up a notch and words begin forming in my mind, ideas and words together. I see structures, contours of the poem forming. Next thing I know, I’m already writing the poem in my head. It’s then I know I need to find a notebook, a computer, anything that will let me get it all down. It’s like the way someone having a fit reaches for their medication.
Of course the analogy doesn’t quite fit. I choose to engage with these sudden fits. I try to get them to happen more. I’ll sit quietly over a cup of coffee waiting for them to happen. And when they do I’ll pursue them to the end. Then nothing gives me more pleasure. In this sense, the whole process is more like having an orgasm.
Still, poetry isn’t as productive as sex and most poets I’ve met would agree that a good lay is way better than writing a good poem. (Although they might say otherwise in certain company.)
The thing about poetry is that it wastes time. It is the ultimate waste of time. At least with screwing you have the potential to get more people, fall in love, whatever. With poetry all you get is more poetry. More words to make more words. And don’t tell me that poetry is made to inspire. Perhaps it does for people who are non-poets: scientists, politicians, business moguls. You know, people who actually do something. But let’s be clear. For poets, if poetry is inspiring, it’s just the inspiration to write more poetry. We continue to make poetry because we just like doing it. It’s our way. Inspiration for inspiration’s sake. Fits for the sake of fits.