Calling the Poem: 2. ‘Awareness of the Mood’

The possibility before the poem, the mood,
Is premonition more than vision: loath
To admit, like the repressed and skewed
Response on seeing god-like demon, or young witch…
Not even genitals’ light twitch,
But mere awareness of that energy, potential thrust,
That tightness in the chest,
A heart-tight feeling of both loss and lust.
Then don’t ignore that feeling, for you’re blessed:
A poem is lurking in your undergrowth.


This series of poems, ‘Calling the Poem’, is about the process of writing poetry – an art for which some people appear to have an affinity, an intangible ability. My sense is that such creativity is available to all humans, but requires a certain mindset, an openness to the unconscious, an interest in unplanned internal upwellings and dreams and fortuitous images; in other words, it is not available to those who plan and schedule their lives rigorously, who meticulously follow the teachings imposed from the outside by others.

The process starts before the poem begins to appear. I find it starts with a mood that feels like… like a mixture of curiosity (whether filled with hope or despair), and of awareness of the vastness of the world (whether manifested in a sunset or an ant), and of some small but significant personal power even in the presence of the forces of the universe, and of that formless twitch of yearning desire when glimpsing an unconnected but desirable object for the first time.

My sense is that when you find yourself in this mood – and I trust you’re aware of having experienced it – you are entering a state of receptivity to the messages that your unconscious wishes to share with the conscious you; and those messages will come as creative images, or dreams, or ideas, or words and phrases. But they will only come if you are receptive to them. So honour the mood: relax, listen, observe, and be prepared to express in rough draft whatever occurs to you. The mood is not the creativity; but if you accept the mood, the creative communication of the unconscious can occur.

Photo: “14. Premonition of Concusia 2009” by Anne Marie Grgich is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


7 thoughts on “Calling the Poem: 2. ‘Awareness of the Mood’

  1. Michael Burch

    I think being receptive is a good thing for poets. The ancient Greeks invented gods, the Muses, to explain the source of poetic inspiration. I have had poems that came to me “from blue nothing” to quote my friend Joe Ruggier, and which seemed to write themselves. For instance, this one that came to me recently:

    Spring Was Delayed
    by Michael R. Burch

    Winter came early:
    the driving snows,
    the delicate frosts
    that crystallize

    all we forget
    or refuse to know,
    all we regret
    that makes us wise.

    Spring was delayed:
    the nubile rose,
    the tentative sun,
    the wind’s soft sighs,

    all we omit
    or refuse to show,
    whatever we shield
    behind guarded eyes.

    Originally published by Borderless Journal

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Michael Burch

        There are other ways of writing poetry. For instance, one of my favorite contemporary poets, Tom Merrill, seems to reject all influences and writes pretty much strictly about his opinions, which are based on logic and apparent rejection of anything one might call inspiration. But I am always happy when a poem appears “out of blue nothing.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Robin Helweg-Larsen Post author

        Tom Merrill is new to me – interesting mix of styles, I’m reading through his work in The Hypertexts. I haven’t noticed a rejection of inspiration – logic can be as inspired as anything else, I think. It all comes back to receptivity, openness to ideas drifting in.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Michael Burch

        I have known Tom for many years and have had many conversations with him about how he writes poetry. I believe Tom would probably disagree about most poems originating for him as you described the process.

        And I have written poems myself that didn’t have anything to do with receptivity, moods, openness, etc. In some cases I simply wanted to make a point, and I made it, just as I am making these points here. Nothing happened except that I had a thought or idea that I wanted to express, and I expressed it, using the same method I use to write most of my prose.

        In short, I believe poems can be written both ways, and I feel sure that I have written poems both ways.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael Burch

    Yes, I think the origin of ideas is an interesting issue. I have had words come to me “out of blue nothing” but I have also sat down and written poems the same way I write prose, choosing each word without any kind of influence or inspiration. The first kind are more mysterious, but I like to think some of the other kind are just as good.

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s