Inspiration for Sources, Sources for Inspiration

Each time I sat down with this assignment in mind, I couldn’t get to writing about sources for poetry without using the word “inspiration.” I kept thinking about what inspires me, and the two concepts became muddled in my mind as one and the same.  That’s when I turned to the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines “inspiration” as :

  • a :  a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation b :  the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions c :  the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

  • 2 :  the act of drawing in; specifically :  the drawing of air into the lungs

  • 3a :  the quality or state of being inspired b :  something that is inspired <a scheme that was pure inspiration>

  • 4 :  an inspiring agent or influence

And here is their definition of “source”:

  • a :  a generative force :  cause b (1) :  a point of origin or procurement :  beginning (2) :  one that initiates :  author; also :  prototype, model (3) :  one that supplies information

  • 2a :  the point of origin of a stream of water :  fountainheadb archaic :  spring, fount

  • 3 :  a firsthand document or primary reference work

  • 4 :  an electrode in a field-effect transistor that supplies the charge carriers for current flow — compare drain, gate

I found it interesting how many more “movement” words were involved in the definitions of “source.” I think it’s important to try and differentiate these two terms, because they are equally important to the creative writer, but in different ways. A source is often described as a point of origin, before energy shifts and something or someone is initiated to move; inspiration is defined moreso as abstract movement, the movement of thoughts and emotions. Obviously, sources in poetry do that for us too, otherwise they wouldn’t be deemed sources that we turn to. But I think it’s important to think about what each of these words means to us individually as poets this semester.

I could tell you myriad events, objects, phenomena that inspire me…but I feel there is a line drawn between what inspires someone and what propels someone to actually create. A source isn’t necessarily an inspiration, is it? The source can be viewed as a tangible object: an old journal article, your favorite writer’s latest short story, or a purple sock in the corner of your room that you just never picked up. We are responsible for ascribing meaning or significance to these objects.

That being said, I will attempt to discuss where my head’s at right now in thinking about my poetic sources, and moving into this semester of workshop.

I recently attended a poetry reading in Holland, Michigan where one specific poet, unnamed, said

“If you want to write for yourself, you’ll reach all the people you want to write for.”

This quote has stuck with me since that reading. I’ve always struggled with knowing who my audience was, or even acknowledging if anyone was listening. Creative writing always felt like a very selfish act, and there didn’t seem a way for MY writing to not seem self-centered. In the past year, I have come to view this selfishness as an integral part of my creative process. If I am to think about the sources for my creative writing, it would be myself: everything that makes me unable to sleep, makes me sleep for a week, makes me think clearly, or that muddles my thoughts so much they are thick mud that cannot be sifted through. I am ok with these ‘selfish’ sources. As a painfully aware and sensitive writer and human being who has collected anxieties and vulnerabilities across a timeline of trauma and mental illness, I’ve found that my search for the exact sources of my poetry mirrors my own personal journey with validating my existence on several fronts: as a mentally ill individual, as a woman, and as part of a stereotyped ‘naïve’ generation.  So, in sum, the source of my poetry will always go back to my own consciousness, and efforts I have made to smooth the course of it or exorcise certain demons from it. This source is most often projected through a cultural lens, as my poetry discusses important social issues by pulling out the inherent ironies of severe issues and turning them into rightful causes to be scared, angry, or feel unsafe.

Thus, my creative energy derives from:

1. Consciousness; emotional capacity and hyper-awareness, progression of time, viewing things as timelines with everything affecting everything else, describing things in terms of psychological/biological occurrences within the mind.

I write as a way to sift through this progression, to make sense of what I haven’t already made sense of, and I write as a practice of listening. I find I don’t listen to myself as much as I do when I have the urge to write, or am in the process of writing. This is also when I feel most connected to humankind.  I write to dissipate the silence, because one of my biggest fears is being silent, and most of my anxiety is felt during times when I have been silenced by others, made myself silenced, or just didn’t have the words to say. I want to always have the words to say—and if not the ‘exact’ way I wish to say something, then at least have those words to fall back on as the only way I’m sure to arrive at truth. Again, this stems back to following my sources back to my own mind and existence.

2. Movement. I am mesmerized with movement and what we can learn from following it, from seeing where it comes from, and from viewing how some movements are more particular than others. This movement is often abstract: time passing on, small changes in the wetness of leaves on the ground from Monday to Thursday, or the way people move their hands.

At the end of the day, the original source for my writing is myself, and I find myself confident in my writing process enough to know that when I am inspired by other people, or by other people’s movements, it is always with my voice that I speak these truths. I believe that the things that interest us, that move us, and even horrify or disgust us, do so for a reason that is intricately embedded in our consciousness. I have always been prodding my consciousness, attempting to exorcise traumas and negative space by representing these in my poetry. It’s very much my strongest form of self-preservation.

3. Art. Another place where I draw inspiration is in art that I love, and art that I hate. Reading other creative writing, looking at other types of art, will always be a way for me to get inspired and get writing. I’ve found that being aware of why you use certain techniques in writing, why you like certain writers and why you hate certain writers, has really led me to finding my own creative voice.



I’m excited to explore in depth sources of poetry, because it seems to me that one always has myriad sources. And we aren’t always thinking of them consciously, or are aware of the reasons WHY we turn to specific sources. For me, the kinds of sources a writer is drawn to or fixates on says a lot about their creative process and also the kind of person they are. I look forward to learning more about source material this semester, and growing with all of you as writers 🙂

see you guys next week!


One Reply to “Inspiration for Sources, Sources for Inspiration”

  1. Hi, Juliet.
    I really liked the thought you put into thinking about this prompt. It was nice knowing the differences between “inspiration” and “source”.
    One book you might like is “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell, as it is narrated by a girl in her first semester in college, and she has degrees of anxiety. It’s a neat book too because she deals with a father with a mental illness and her internal dialogue tends to be funny. It’s a nice balance between dialogue and there’s a nice passage of time as the main character learns to grow up.
    The poem “Silence is Broken” by Sandra Fowler is a poem that is short, but it provides a small look into the mind of someone who sounds more introverted, observing rain falling and describing thoughts on silence. As someone who has a very complicated relationship with silence- hating it and liking it depending on how I feel- I liked how Fowler described it. As someone who has anxiety and suffers with silence too, you might like it.
    You mentioned liking hands, like the movements of them, and I found a poem named “Her Hands” by Maggie Pittman, describing the hands of a mother and through this description of her hands, the relationship between the speaker and her mother is revealed. As a poem, I thought it had a nice, soft tone and hopefully you might like it.
    An anthology you might like is “Burning of the Three Fires”, with poems by Jeanne Marie Beaumont, which is interesting because it has reflective poems that deal with observations and deals with experiences of many kinds.

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