Yehuda Amichai, whose intimate poems about love and loss have touched the hearts of people around the world, shared his insights into the writing process with a young poet a few years ago.
What's striking about these random thoughts is not their simplicity--some of the remarks may seem rather obvious--but rather how Amichai encourages the young poet to lose himself in the process of writing and to become intimate with his (or her) own passions.
Not only does Amichai suggest that it's necessary to view the world in your own unique way, but that each writer must find what's meaningful to him or her to write about.
Writing in this way, from a deep emotional core, requires a difficult balancing act--to be conscious of one's feelings toward the world while at the same time being willing to lose oneself in the process of writing about those feelings.
It means finding a way to write without imposing a form on those feelings... but allowing the feelings themselves to find a form...
In any case, here are excerpts of the conversation that Amichai had with F.M. Black, an award-winning Haiku poet and former journalist, a few years before Amichai's death in 2000:
* Some people make marmalade from the apple that Newton saw and which served as his basis for deductions about gravity; others make poetry. It all depends on how you see it.
* A poem is a poem if it grasps you... if you want to return to it. If it gives you the feeling of being a poem, then it's a poem.
* One must enjoy one's writing and take pleasure in it. That's all it comes down to. It's a matter of falling in love with some aspect of life... and a desire to express that in words.
* Let the idea or poem determine its own form. Don't try to force it into something that it's not or something which doesn't fit it.
* When is a poem finished? After a certain arrival at a place that it's supposed to arrive at... after a certain progression, as it were, that takes you from one place to another... or even back to the beginning.
* You can talk about poety or even teach it, but you see the way you see... and no one can teach that.
* Most of all, try to forget you're a poet. (It imposes a false relationship to the world and distances you from it. )
* Deal with the world as you are... not as you might want to be.
So, when you sit down to write and you're not sure where the words will lead, ask yourself the questions that Amichai might ask:
What is it that brings you pleasure?
What--or who--are you in love with?
Without trying to impose a form... let the words come, and see if you can spend fifteen minutes, a half-hour, or more exploring what this life, this world, means to you.
Perhaps when you're done, you'll find yourself with an image or phrase that will lead to a poem or story in the days of writing that lay ahead.
(A special note of thanks to F.M. Black for sharing with Wordswimmer the notes of his conversation with Mr. Amichai.)