Sunday, September 28, 2008

Netflix and the Poet's Workbook

Most poets I know keep a notebook, or should, for those moments when an idea comes to them, a phrase occurs, an image strikes and moves them. Often it is only when the poet is stuck trying to write a poem that they will go back to this notebook and do anything with the images and words trapped there.

These images and phrases are like the obscure documentaries, the classic movies, the less popular mid-eighties movies, maybe even the made-for TV miniseries or Christmas specials of the video rental store that is a poet's brain.

Enter Netflix. I urge you to pull out your notebook(s), or if you don't have one, to take a legal pad and jot things down on it over the course of the week. You can, if you wish, arrange or number items on your list in the order you would like to get them first. Then spend a stanza on each one. Each time you finish a stanza, imagine sliding the image back in its dirty paper sleeve, into its previously-used red envelope, mailing it off, and getting the new one in the mail.

Like your Netflix list, I imagine the poem will be pretty cohesive after looking at it for a little while.

Something to complicate this poem: I share my Netflix with my husband. The conflict! If you have a friend who's willing to let you have some of her poetry jottings, write your lists and then mix them up. Argue over whose image gets to come first, then second, et cetera. Something like, "your peeled orange is so lame. I did that in third grade. I want to see my broke-down Ford first." And then you both go home and see what you come up with.

Illustration by Mahendra Singh.

Thanks Poetry Foundation, for keeping it cool. For a feature on poet's notebooks:

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