Beginning with Inkblots

Nonfiction by | January 18, 2009

inkblotsTo write is to be in service to the moment, a moment that seeks to captivate and allure as well as to express the complex nature of emotion. I have written for as long as I can remember because I have found the necessity—no, rather, the conscious desire and comfort to see my thoughts and feelings materialize on paper and hence become my reality through which all can awaken and develop a sense of meaning and value.

I write because I feel the urge to enter into the practice of rediscovering the simplicities and complexities around me through the aid of both imagery and words, each story and each poem pulsating with life, striving to describe, to impart insight, to prove, to share—for life, I believe, is in itself the lifeblood of all things written and to be written.

When I write, I learn all over again that words cease to be lifeless letters stringed together to form a concept or idea—in poetry, I see them leap, slide, plunge, soar off of the page, re-creating, transforming, inspiring my mind but more so my heart to dare, to reach past the boundaries, to test my patience and to acknowledge my limitations so I may make amends for faults committed.

I have yet to become a writer, but with each passing day that I am able to see the world and allow it to lead me into the unknown, a deep sense of pleasure rises from the depths of my chest—it is the excitement of knowing that there is always something waiting to be found, to be noticed, to be looked upon with curiosity and that such a truth knows no end.

I find it enticing when I look at a blank page, see it as a temptress that longs for only one thing: change—the challenge to embrace and embody whatever it is that comes. As much as the mind is elastic and free to compose, writing is versatile and finds itself born in countless aesthetic forms. One of such forms is poetry—which William Wordsworth defined as “a spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquillity.” It is the art and action of capturing the moment.

To create poetry, I have allowed my mind to wander, to contemplate what it comes across, to question and ponder both questions and their answers in silence. As Emily Dickinson says “I dwell in possibility.” So do I. That is, to the best of my knowledge, the secret to writing of any kind—there is always room for the unexpected. When a poem refuses to take shape, I learn to marvel at the words I have in front of me, inkblots on a page where strong lines and verses ought to be—there is space for me to continue, there is a wall in front of me which I have to break through; and even when I do, I know the battle won’t be over. It is in appreciating the pain, realizing the constant tension between knowing what you want to stay and deciding how to say it that brings forth poetry. Every word, every thought has the potential to become something greater than it appears to be depending upon its usage and a person’s creativity. Grappling with words acknowledges the notion that there is a better way of stating or describing—that there is a better adjective I can use, that there is a clearer and cleverer way of saying something so that it appeals to the senses as much as it appeals to the mind. A poem is never a finished work of art, and this highlights one of its characteristics—its versatility allows itself to be tweaked, dissected, and torn apart in the hope of creating it anew, allowing us to believe in its capability to become stronger and more elegant than before. To frown upon a line is to wish for a poem’s salvation and I have frowned on my own lines countless times.

. . .

Indeed, I am learning to concentrate on what ought to be said and not with what can be used to fill in a line or two pointlessly. In the course of writing poetry, I have learned to keep and to reject—I have learned to fix what I can and to dispose of work when both logic and imagery have no means of working harmoniously together to form a connection. As a would-be writer, I am learning to understand that I have to go through a hundred flawed poems before I get closer to creating an acceptable example—I must be patient and enduring, quick to spot my own errors so I do not make the mistake of repeating them in the future. To write means to be ready for tears—tears of joy when a desired effect is achieved, tears of anxiety when lines do not come together and tears of happiness when a work is either critiqued fairly or appreciated. Writing is never finished when the pen is laid aside because it continues in the due process of editing and revision, the re-evaluation of effective imagery, the painstaking care in making sure that nothing is overly done and bombastic. In this sense, writing is not a hobby nor a chore—it is a challenge.

Elizabeth Bishop and Pablo Neruda, poets themselves, have lived with the reality that writing is a tedious task and as those who write the type of poetry which I hold in high esteem for both their simplistic language and romantic imagery, I know that their poems took the better brunt of transformation in an attempt to better both form and content. Albeit the fact that they have the ability to manipulate the poetic form to express their ideas, nevertheless they had to toil, write, and rewrite the same lines over and over again to ensure that their lines were clear and worthy of being judged a part of a poem. Poetry should not only lend itself to the pencil—it must lend itself to the eraser as well. It is with such a realization that a written work has the chance to stand on its two feet to defend itself after it has been stitched back together.

Writing poetry in the span of a few months has taught me to look upon the tiniest detail with care, to struggle for the best word available, to be careful about how I structure my thoughts into lines and my lines into stanzas. A poem’s success and beauty does not lie primarily in its grammatically correct composition—it must make sense and appeal to the mind as well as to the eye and to the ear, it must all at once move and provoke and stir either restlessness or peace in a reader. I believe that when the moment presents itself, the poet must do everything in his power to capture and preserve it, for true inspiration shows itself very rarely, and every moment can either be the makings of a fine poem or an idea lost to the wind. Everyday is another quest to fill the blank page, reconstruct am erroneous line. The adventure begins with the first inkblot.

Kelly Conlon studies writing in UP Mindanao.

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