NOTES ON PUTTING THE WORLD TO BED
I had a dream where I was laying out fish on the beach before going to sleep. I thought that this was certainly a parable of what a poet often did with things: arrange them in patterns which might prove significant over time, the raw materials of dreams. maybe this is called "putting our ducks in order." Naming things, folding them up and putting them in a tidy, metrically-shaped drawer, is a way of resolving the world, making one's nest cozy, the way a dog or a mouse will.
A writer spends his time puttering about, dusting, organizing, anything but write. After a while, all those things become more than mere procrastinations: they become the invokers of mood; they need to be done in order to write. Robert Penn Warren told a young writer that the best thing he could do for his writing was to putter around doing nothing. Puttering is the father of creativity. Wasting time is an integral part of writing. Acts spring from dreams.
As I put the words down, I was reminded of my poem, Arrangement, which also discusses the idea of organizing the world, although it proposes that objects organize their own lives, impose their own order, without our interference, and we just notice the patterns.
In some way, everything in my life needs to be organized "in oder" for the writing to happen, like type-setting boxes from an old fashioned printing press. To print a poem, all the letters have to be in the boxes first. All the socks have to be in the drawers.
As Cathy says, words throw out long fishing lines to each other, to hook their verbal fish, to catch the full merit of one another. All the vents of our life are running around chaotically, like fishermen in a storm. You have to get them all inside first, and let them come out one by one and cast their lines, to make some sense out of the sea.
Kailua December 19th, 2002
11:42 am - 1:14 pm