From the Mad Mind
of Anthony Watkins
Here’s a question for all of you who write poetry: what is your process? Do you measure the poem out like an engineering project? Do you start out with an endpoint in mind? Do you throw a word salad on the page and try to edit it into some semblance of sense? Or do you have another way—like Simon Perchik for example?
I knew a wonderful poet, Brenda Black White, who would spend years on any given poem, and another, Dr. Lancaster, who worked to carefully eliminate any words he could without compromising the meaning,
But I assumed every poet more or less thought like I did and wrote at least their first draft the same way I do.
Before I started taking ModPo, about seven years ago, I had not given this question much thought. Since then, I have discovered that while each writer’s thinking and writing style might not be completely unique, most of us compose in very different ways. We all have different ways of producing poems. In my case, occasionally a poem will rattle around in my head until the pieces start coming together, and then I take a few minutes to write it down. But usually, like the poem below for example, I grab a thought, or a phrase, and just start writing, and the poem comes out without much conscious thought on my part, much like putting a little water on a page written in invisible ink. So much so, I generally feel guilty claiming it as MY work. I do worry sometimes that my lack of intellectual input probably shows, and that my poetry suffers from it.
The following is a poem that unfolded for me. I just started a silly poem with a talking cow and it ended up taking turns and twists and ending in a way I could never have predicted:
The Male Cow
The male cow responded
with a touch of anger
saying, “don’t call me a male cow,
I am a bull”
When I replied, “but are you not
a male of the cow persuasion?”
“of course, but don’t
call me a cow.
Cows are dumb and tame.
I am a BULL!”
Do you not eat the corn?
Do you not do as you are told?
In the end, are you not slaughtered?
“But I am not a cow,”
he said as I pushed
him down the chute
towards the bolt
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