I was gambling in Havana; or, On Creativity and Intent

Following up on last week’s post https://marilynonaroll.wordpress.com/2021/02/15/kiss-me-on-a-midnight-street-or-creativity-and-letting-go-of-control/: So adventure, yes, but what of more serious concerns? I again approach this idea of “what the poet intends.”

I’m referencing here something a friend said that I agreed with in the moment but now think I may disagree: she said the context of a critique should always be the poet’s intent for the poem. I’ve also preached intent as a necessary level in the revision process. But I’m thinking now that if the poet has an intent for the poem, she’s already lost the poem. “But that’s not what I want the poem to do” is a phrase I hear — and say — in response sometimes to critique. But it’s that very wanting, that very conscious intention, that maybe should not be trusted.

Am I saying that a poem develops its own path, and the poet needs to learn to get out of the way? That sounds awfully woo woo for me. But maybe I’m kind of thinking that way.

But I’ve also argued that if you don’t know your intention for a poem, you’re in danger of writing too superficially. Could that also be true? Am I overthinking?

I think I’m perceiving that at certain stages in the development of a poem, the poet needs to move at first without much conscious thought, much the way I just laid water and color down on my paper, and then turned the paper around and around. What I intended was that somehow the colors would create some shape that would allow me to find something on the page to make a picture of. That didn’t happen. In the absence of that intended result, the absence of a discernible object or presence, I had to find another way. The frustration of my intent turned out to be a freedom and a way to discover something new.

The word intend is from Latin meaning stretching toward something. Sometimes in the writing of something, the process of writing itself causes the thing to stretch toward something unexpected. And it might take a clear-eyed view, probably after some time away from the poem, for me to be able to see what my own poem is saying, what it’s claiming as its own intentions or my own subconscious ones.

I’ve got a few poems in my holding cell at the moment, and keep revisiting them. They’re not bad. They’re not good. One in particular came out of an art exhibit the details of which I can no longer remember, but I know I wanted to write something out of the experience of that exhibit. I’m wondering now if I need to leave the exhibit behind, and see if the poem is actually reaching toward something entirely different. But no! That’s not what I intended! Plus if it goes in an entirely different direction then it won’t fit in with this manuscript I’m developing!

Tough luck, kid. Is this an adventure, or ain’t it?

2 thoughts on “I was gambling in Havana; or, On Creativity and Intent

  1. “[It} might take a clear-eyed view, probably after some time away from the poem, for me to be able to see what my own poem is saying, what it’s claiming as its own intentions or my own subconscious ones.”

    Yes. Intention as a paradox, stretching-toward as an adventure. Very nice.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Poetry Blog Digest 2021, Week 8 – Via Negativa

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