Pursued by the poem


I am being pursued by the poem.  It has been there for several years now, asking to be written.

I find it on scraps of paper, backs of envelopes, notebooks I thought I had lost. In each one the fragment is the same, the title and the first three lines, verbatim, not copied but written from memory.

In a way this is the most perfect form it will ever reach. It is still untainted. I have not managed to ruin it with my ideas and grand designs. Yet. I notice it is still informed mostly by impulse, not words at all, more akin to the sense-memory of smell or hearing a forgotten song for the first time in years.

It is begging to be written. How long have I put it off? I am lazier than I thought.

Each time I go back to my folder of scraps it manages to catch my eye, even as it makes its way to the back, out of sight. ‘Choose me,’ it says. ‘I am alive. Not like the rest of them. You know you want to.’

At some point I know I am going to have to give in and see what this nagging little urchin of a voice wants to become. Which begs the question of who is in control of this process, me or the poem. I’d rather be doing something else, like writing another (perhaps safer?) poem, a poem I have a vague idea I know what I am doing with.

‘Which is precisely my point,’ the poem says to me. ‘It’s because I frighten you that you should be writing me, not shoving me further into the dark like this. Only when you stop trying to control what you are up to will you ever be any use as a poet.’


  1. I liked your conversation with your poem!
    Just sitting down myself, collecting ‘stuff’ about poetry just as I got your blog. I like finding odd pieces of paper written in strange ‘codes’.
    They help us construct meanings about the world we live in and by writing things down we are being allowed to interpret them.
    ‘Interpretation is not the art of construing but the art of constructing. Interpreters do not decode poems: they make them.(Fish ’80. 327)
    Poets are interpreters of the world for others. We read the poems and make sense of our own world through the poem…


  2. I was wondering where that scrap of paper was going to when I wasn’t seeing it in my pack or on my desk. I think it’s the SAME scrap for all of us, just with different words for whoever looks at it. The ur-draft?


  3. The last line of this post sent me reeling. Wisdom will sometimes do that. Thanks for this bit of it…Molly


    1. Your post reminded me of the beautiful words of Thom Gunn: “…poetry writing..is…connected with the processes of magic. It is a reaching out into the unexplained areas of the mind, in which the air is too thickly primitive or too fine for us to live continually. From that reaching I bring back loot, and don’t always know at first what that loot is, except that I hope that it is of value as an understanding or as a talisman, or more likely as a combination of the two, of both rational power and irrational.”


  4. Isn’t it always about fear? Good and fun conversation with the poem to be written.
    Many writers of poetry and any genres will recognize the feelings and emotions you are describing so well. Thank you.


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