Monday, February 18, 2008

"Why Do I Write" ~ Kurt Brown

Why Do I Write ~ Kurt Brown

The question, for me, is unanswerable and surely almost everything in my life and experience argues against it. If I could help myself, I wouldn’t write at all.

I read somewhere that John Keats said if everything he’d ever written was destroyed overnight, he’d get up the next morning and start writing again. I’m only paraphrasing, but something like that applies to me when it comes to writing. Not being John Keats, of course, but the insane urge to keep writing words and arranging sentences into lines looking for that one good poem that someone else might find moving and important and crucial to their life. One good poem. A person could spend his whole life pursuing that, and never achieve it. And as soon as one poem is finished, which he might think is good and strong—a real poem, that is—he discards it as a failure, and begins working on another poem, hoping this time for success.

The process usually goes something like this: some phrase or subject or idea piques my interest, and at one point or another I begin to write; then I become captivated by the idea, and the writing, and I work hard until I think the poem is finished; then I experience a sense of euphoria, because I am still in the halo of intensity it took to write the poem, and I think “This is a good one, this is a real poem”; then, over the next few days, as I read the poem over and over again, I begin to see it is rather ordinary, flawed, a failure in fact. It has been robbed of its initial glory by a more sober approach, by the time it takes to as assess it with an objective eye. Which is the eye of a reader, not the writer. Then I vow never to write again. Then, slowly, after a few days or weeks, I begin another poem. This is what I meant by the word “insane” above.

Maybe, like Keats, everything I’ve ever written is destroyed—over and over and over again. I write in hopes of writing one good poem. I live for it.

NOTE: This may seem melodramatic to some, and I understand why. Some of the best poets I’ve ever known have a much cooler, more skeptical view of writing. Perhaps they only backed into it, initially dreaming about becoming something else. Not every artist is passionate about his art. If, as Edward Hirsch claims, being drawn to poetry—and to write—is something like falling in love with a real person, then I fell in love a long time ago and I’ve never gotten over it. Perhaps it’s the Muse I love, and she disdains me. Isn’t that the plot of a thousand novels and television shows? A little less passion might help my writing. I live for that, too.

1 comment:

KATE EVANS said...

I get that euphoria/disappointment rhythm.