Fixations of Inspiration

Repetition? Okay, so now I’m aware of a recurring image in my poetry: the sky. While, in some aspects, I feel embarrassed that I never really thought twice about it, I feel conflicted about whether or not I should fight it. If the sky is a source of inspiration for me, why should I stifle it? Maybe the issue is that this is a popular, stereotypical poetry image.

The discourse I’m trying to begin here, though, isn’t about sky imagery. It’s about inspiration. Certainly I’m not the only writer who becomes obsessed with something so much that it, almost literally, consumes her? When I’m in one of these obsessive states, almost all of my poetry is conceived with the same topic as inspiration, or eventually ends up with a synonymous meaning. While I was not aware of the sky repetition, I am aware that this could come off as beating the topic to death. However, if it serves the purpose of producing poetry, why stop?

I suppose that the question I want to pose is whether or not these fixations can be stifling to one’s poetry, or if stifling them can be? Writing about the same things all the time eventually fizzles out the excitement and becomes boring to the writer, but how quickly does it become so for the reader?

This question, then, leads me to wonder about whether we write poetry for ourselves or for an audience? It is a conversation that I’ve been having in another English class, (and I apologize for this post being more fluid than defined), and we have yet to come to a conclusive agreement. At this point, I feel that if one were to write only for an audience, the product would suffer. For example, say you want to write a novel, but you know it won’t appeal to a popular audience; do you sell out and write something that does? Or do you write what you want anyway? If one were to write only for oneself, then it might not appeal to others, but it would bring personal satisfaction. I guess the question, here, becomes: which is more important?

Let’s say, then, that I currently have a fascination with flowers (original, I know). All of my poetry encompasses flowers and the workshop points it out and says that they grow tired of it. But it’s the force urging me to continue writing right now. Do I stop in order to please them? Or do I let the fixation play itself out and enjoy myself in the process? Maybe I’m selfish, but I think the latter sounds better. What are your thoughts?

2 Replies to “Fixations of Inspiration”

  1. Hi Rachel!

    I totally get where you’re coming from, and I feel strongly, as I’m sure all other poets do, this conflict between active writing and stifling repetitive themes or images.

    You bring up an especially interesting point that if one is fixated on a specific image, why do we feel so obligated to muffle it, or leave it out purposefully? To me, there is something urgent and important in the images that sit atop our minds on a daily basis, of needing to release it and give it life in the form of written expression. That being said, your other point of whether or not writing is for personal satisfaction or criticism is also causing me to rethink my writing process, and I’ve come to an interesting conclusion: at the end of the day, we write poetry because we need to, not because we want to. We don’t necessarily need to write about the “sky” all day long and ruminate about “flowers” and such that are nothing more than aesthetically pleasing or perhaps just fixations. But, when these images are persistent in our brains and memory, I believe we need to, as writers, follow it out of our heads and onto the paper. Whether or not what is produced is “great” or “just another Rachel Britton poem about the sky” matters little, for exploring why our brains latch on to specific images or words is crucial for a learning writer.

    All of these ideas bring up the question of doing something for passion versus it being your life’s work or source of financial stability. How do we draw the line between the two? This feels, to me, to overlap so closely to the idea of personal satisfaction vs “pleasing” other people, peers, critics.

    I guess, for me, it’s more about personal satisfaction and bettering/cultivating my mind. Poetry has a way of expanding our minds and our lives in a way no other craft really can, and if we have a calling or drive to write poetry, this is a rare gift that must be nurtured and listened to.

    Thanks for this post, Rachel! It gave me a lot to think about and forced me to put into perspective why I continue to write.

    -Juliet 🙂

  2. Rachel,
    I am 100% with you. I think that poetry is and should be about the self, and the readership who can connect with your poetry is just a bonus. Sometimes, the poet writes to seek an audience, but I think that the purpose is different. As poets, we should be selfish; what I’m trying to say is that our best poetry comes from what motivates us, what inspires us, and what we see as important. I think that it doesn’t really help to ignore our passions in favor of more “palatable” poetry, and that we can really evolve in our poetics if we let our obsessions guide us!

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