poetry and the now
Poetry and the Now
What does “the now” mean, and how can an understanding of it help with your poetry?
Living in the now means being fully present in the moment, without dwelling on the past or future. In some senses, a poem is just that. Even when the “action” in the poem takes part in the past or future, it can transport you to its moment, its central “now.”
It can be interesting to write a poem using only the present moment. You could try thinking about the senses. What can you see around you as you write? What can you smell? Hear? Taste? And finally, what can you feel– not just in terms of physical sensation, but also your emotions, your thoughts, your mood?
You could write a poem that links two or more senses together. Maybe a smell is directly linked to the feeling it provokes in you, or maybe you can hear the sound of something you can also taste, like someone chewing bubble gum. Writing about the present moment like this serves at least two purposes. Firstly, it can help you anchor yourself in the moment- a technique often recommended to people going through anxiety. Focusing on a sense or sensation is known as a grounding technique, which works to calm some people. Secondly, it can encourage you to think about the sensations of every day life, so that when reflecting on the past or projecting into the future for another poem, you are more in tune with them. In other words, writing in the now can make you a better poet, with a keener awareness of what’s going on in the world around you.
It isn’t just in writing poetry that being in the now can be important. As poets, we tend to read other poets, and one of the best ways of approaching a new poem is to get inside its moment. Use the senses to ground yourself within your poem. Where the poem talks about a sound, allow yourself to imagine that sound. Let the poet guide you through feelings, sights and tastes. This approach can be really helpful when thinking about difficult, less accessible poetry- when you strip away the complex references and language, you are left with the feeling of the poem. The feeling of the poem- its essence- is important, and one of the best ways of accessing it is through an awareness of the now (both your own, and that of the poem).
Something to try: Write down five things you can taste; five things you can smell; five things you can hear; five things you can see, or five things you can feel right now. (Of course adjust if you are unable to do some of these things). Try to do this once a day, and see whether you begin noticing things more keenly. See if you can get a poem out of it.
Blog written by Becky Balfourth