BY DAVID BIESPIEL
first seen in Prairie Schooner Magazine
What paths will you follow into your unconscious self in order to begin to answer the questions about how to become a poet?
Every morning that the sun rises in the east is another morning that modernity’s interest in the poetic imagination has yet to reach its full flower. The pressures of everyday life seem intent on vaporizing the images and words of your dreams along with the terrors of your nightmares. The pressures of everyday life seem uninterested in your lusts and memories and all that makes up the deep reservoir of your creative mind, including the unconscious little dwellings of fantasy and insanity that lurk beneath your daily existence.
It’s as if just sustaining the tribulations — and, yes, the joys too — of domestic and family life or tending to your (even good) job or navigating all this (amazing) technology where the newest upgrade yet again promises an even better experience all conspire to drain the wells of your poetic imagination.
Given how your daily life can careen between needs and necessities, from nurturing your inner life or raising children to enjoying friendships, from shopping for lightbulbs to reheating dinner, from doing the laundry to saving for a trip — and even given the times when you find yourself caring seriously for the ill, elderly, or young in your life — you know all too well that the rampaging exteriors of the modern world seem intent on smothering the inner life of your poetic self whenever and wherever it can.
Of course it can’t. Your inner life is inextinguishable.
So to become a poet in the modern world is to trust that a poem is one of the essential messages you send right back at modernity. A poem is a means to define modernity. And it’s your poems that remind us not only of our individuated ecstasies and trials but also of the shared and granular images and stories of human experience.
But a very curious battle does take place, no? An ancient and noble battle, yes? We all sense it.
For one thing, accessing your poetic imagination doesn’t require a password — and neither will there be an upgrade next year. For another thing, your inner life subverts the turbulences of modernity, and the open fields of your imagination will not be fenced in by the onslaught of day to day existence.
On the contrary, your poetic imagination represents a compassionate and cultivated defense against the brute forces of modern living. Because, as if on cue, as if also at war with modernity — as if in the very moments that daily life seems most successful at crushing you as a creative individual — some odd aroma will trick your true poet’s self to embrace the imaginary along with the inventive forms and auras of language, of rhythm, of literary echoes, and of patterns and orders of the words and images that comprise your poems.