Skip to content

What’s with all the words?


Checking the tag cloud on my blog reveals that I have classified 39 of my 139 posts thus far as ‘poetry’. I’m pretty liberal with the use of the tag, sometimes applying it to rhythmic rants, other times to multi-line aphorisms. Basically anything completely ungrammatical I post tends to get the ‘poetry’ tag.

But even allowing for slack tagging habits, the fact I write anything I consider poetry at all would have been completely unprecedented a year ago. Up until then I had written perhaps three poems in my life, all at school and only because I was obliged to by the English curriculum.

I’ve always made up song lyrics, often accidentally. A song gets caught in my head as an earworm and the words slowly change through repetition, sometimes hilariously.

To make a new song I start by scatting nonsense syllables to the melody and beat, then just let words fall into the placeholders I have made for them. Sometimes I ‘seed’ it by deliberately forcing a phrase or two into place or by trying to keep a theme in mind as the nonsense repeats in my head. Occasionally a few lines, a whole verse or a chorus immediately suggest themselves with the music and the rest of the lyrics coalesce around them, but not often. I wrote about a dozen songs that way when I was briefly in a punk rock band but also filled a couple of textbooks with them after abandoning my half-arsed career as a half-baked bass player. I’d pretty much abandoned that self-indulgence by my mid-20s but still sometimes accidentally ‘compose’ new songs by mutating an earworm, usually without bothering to write them down. ‘I love the snuff song‘ was a particularly horrible mutated earworm that began life as the Rolling Stones’ Gimme Shelter when I had been thinking about the spontaneous miscarriage guest vocalist, Merry Clayton, had suffered after recording the song.

I’ve never been particularly interested in poetry as such. Sometimes I could see a poem was clever or funny, on rare occasions even touching, but mostly I just found them boring, self-indulgent or incomprehensible – adjectives I also applied to most poets.

Last October, shortly before I began hypomanically bombarding my uncle with unsolicited literature, something completely unprecedented happened. A constant stream – sometimes multiple streams – of ‘poetry’ just kept pouring into my head as if from nowhere. It continued almost non-stop during my waking moments for about three days. Its themes were almost all things I had contemplated in the past or were clearly influenced by what I was doing at the time but where the words themselves were coming from is a mystery to me – other than to give the obvious non-answer that it came from my subconscious.

It generally didn’t distract me from what I was doing any more than having a radio on in the background would, though occasionally it threw up something so interesting or funny it did grab my attention.

Mostly it was rubbish as poetry, at least in my opinion. But then again most of the works of recognised Australian poets Radio National plays on its ‘Poetica‘ program are rubbish to me. The themes, styles and metres changed at regular intervals, usually not in synch with each other, and it was very rare there was a fragment with a distinct beginning, middle and end. One that did have a structure arrived when I was speculating with my flatmate about what was going on in my head and where all these words were coming from. It made me laugh and was one of the few I bothered to write down. It appears in this blog as ‘orphan‘.

My hypomania eventually developed into mania and peaked as four days of full blown psychosis, culminating in the moment that defined my entire life. The wordstream stopped as my psychosis started (though some mental health professionals would probably insist it was the start of my psychosis) but since then I’ve been subject to spontaneous poems arriving out of nowhere when I least expect them.

Today’s poem ‘memories‘ came into my head over the space of about ten seconds while I was struggling onto a bus with the week’s grocery shopping. I certainly wasn’t thinking about poems, nor about the woman it refers to, but I had been thinking about the nature of memory earlier in the day. In a sense memory is encoded onto everything in the universe – everthing reflects traces of the chain of cause and effect (karma-vipaka) that has led to it. But in another sense there is no such thing as memory. The act of remembering is an interpretation that occurs in the present interface between subject and object, reader and read, with different ‘memories’ evoked if either subject or object changes. And everything is always changing. To remember is to fail to evoke something that has irretrievably passed by someone who is no longer the person who experienced it.

Almost all the poems in this blog have come to me spontaneously without any intent on my part, often in a simultaneous tumble of stanzas that I later sorted into some kind of order. Usually I have edited and polished them slightly or recreated them from a patchy memory when I have gotten to a notepad or keyboard. Probably about half are lost completely because they arrive while I’m busy doing something else and cannot be recalled by the time I get the chance to write them down.

I have no background in poetry criticism and have no idea if they are any good. The ones I like the most seem to attract little attention from blog readers while the those that get the most likes I often could barely be bothered typing out.

I was only slightly surprised to discover that many other people who call themselves poets receive their poems in a similar manner. What is surprising is that it’s happening to me. I’ve just never been interested in poetry before.

However since I have started writing poetry I have also become interested in the poetry of others. Some of my fellow bloggers seem to be very impressive poets to me and some poems I have known of for years now seem to resonate in a way they never did before.

I still think most of the stuff on Poetica is rubbish though.

From → autobiography, radio

  1. I could have almost written this to describe what happened to me starting at the end of February of this year.. and of course it is documented in my Katie Mia Aghogday blog..

    I experienced this one time in middle school and a few times when taking a philosophy class in my freshman college year…but I did not care that much for words and really did not care that much for reading for the major course of my life…

    Most of my learning was through auditory or visual experiences beyond words..but numbers were always a large part of the overall formula too..

    The ‘little’ sidebar prose in blogspot and in the about section of the word press blog that was actually just an email response that started flowing from somewhwere really says it all I guess better than anything I might communicate after 6 months from then in actual words…

    It was exciting for me to watch myself writing those words as my hands seemed driven by a force higher than what I was aware of at that point in life…


  2. Hmm..bummer more word press comment disappeared but this is very reflective of my experience with prose that I would not exactly put as poetry yet…but there are times that I rhyme..

    I experienced the free flow of this creativity a few times in middle school. and in my freshman year at college in a philosophy class..

    But it started going in hyperdrive as it appeared again in late February of this year..2013.

    The post that perhaps describes IT better than any other is the one on the sidebar at http://katiemiaaghogday.blogspot and in the about section of the word press blog..
    It was just a response to a Facebook message where the word Synesthesia was used.


Over to you

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

%d bloggers like this: