From where does inspiration come? Does the title come first, or last? The answer, for me, to both questions is “It really just depends.” Yay for nonanswers, but the truth is often far more oblique and stranger than fiction. As I write this, the colors in the sky are slowly shifting towards light, and a bluejay just perched on my garden fountain to drink, less than six feet away. In the moment, I know I want to write ‘Southern Indiana Sunrise,’ and I also know with near-certainty that the finished poem will probably demand an entirely different title…but a starting point is a starting point.
In his May 15, 2012 article for NYRblog, Charles Simic writes that the types of poems he prefers, “mostly short and requiring endless tinkering,” are fueled by his lifelong love of chess. “They depend for their success on word and image being placed in proper order.”
One poet I know has found her muse present in viewing art installations as sources for deeply personal ekphrastic lyric poems. Another appropriates overheard phrases and found language from sources as divergent as cereal boxes, comic books and billboards into multilayered masterpieces, occasionally cutting up text and juxtaposing fragments to forge a new whole as one might in a Tzara’s Hat exercise.
Whatever the source, the meditation simmering in my brain as I watch this vibrant blue bird wash its wings in the dog’s water is this: inspiration wants a receiver, and we must remain present and receptive in our environments to best hear our individual muses.