I prefer to write poetry longhand, usually, at least for the first draft. It’s not romanticism; it’s forcing myself to slow down a bit. I’m pretty particular about the pen and the kind of notebook, too. I like Moleskines, of course, who doesn’t? But my favorite is a faux-leather-bound big journal that I got when I taught a writing camp for high school kids. That was years ago, and it’s getting pretty full of notes at this point, but it’s hard to find something nicer.
I remember reading someone who suggested that poets should use cheap spiral bound notebooks. Great, if you can. I used to. But the pages get hard to turn, the paper feels like crap, and the spirals catch on everything in my shoulder bag. So I’m willing to splurge.
I used to keep a notebook for ideas, but I found it fell apart in my pocket and men’s clothing doesn’t always have a convenient place to store it. So now I use my “memory palace” to keep track of ideas. It works better and doesn’t lock me into a particular phrasing too soon.
I thought someone might find it interesting how I work at poetry. I have several methods, so I’ll describe them in several posts over the coming weeks.
Automatic writing is a method of writing at speed without thinking too much about what you’re producing. It’s not a mystical thing or channeling spirits or any such thing. It’s just writing faster than you can “correct” yourself. I do this sometimes for a set time, say ten to fifteen minutes, without looking back or stopping. I take that second rule very seriously: I will not let myself stop writing until the allotted time. This has occasionally involved answering the phone with one hand while writing with the other until the timer dings.
What this mostly produces is nonsense. But sometimes that nonsense has a few good phrases, which I can turn into poems. This is my go-to method when I’m really stuck. Since I’m nearly always really stuck, about two-thirds of the poems in Second Person are written this way.
I am Patrick Dunn, author of Second Person, a book of poetry about absence and presence, and how we approach the world as a “you” rather than an “it.”
Second Person is currently available for preorder from Finishing Line Press.