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The Poetic Mind as a Muscle


As a poet at any given skill level, you might ponder different ways to advance your mastery of the craft. You might spend weeks dissecting famous and not so famous poets. You might read countless articles on poetic technique. You might just plow through any and every collection you can get your hands on, track all of the most well-know journals, follow all of the contemporaries. All of these things add up to a knowledgeable poet. However, does this necessarily make you a better poet?

No. The reason is that most of us equivocate poetic skill with divinely gifted talent. We often think of poetry as a latent ability that we merely possess or do not. This leads to certain diseases within the mind, whether it be the idea that our words are beyond reproach because they are "self expression," or we decide that words come out and that's all there is to it. Other times we are stricken by the undeniable flaws of our work, even to the point of becoming discouraged.

The problem? Most of us in this generation do not see our poetic mind as a muscle. Muscles, of course, benefit from careful and educated training. Lets break the concepts down into tangible processes to build upon our skill and improve.

The poet's workout:


As poets, we need to work our mind as much as bodybuilders need to work their muscle. The first thing we need to understand is that the worlds strongest men did not spontaneously decide that they could pull 18-wheelers and hurl boulders. It was a process of constantly challenging then resting their muscle tissue, forcing their body to repair and grow. The same processes apply to us as the aspiring poet. Most of us to not wake up one day and have a mastery of our favorite techniques without having worked hard to get there.

The Stretch

Athletes use stretching as a way to increase their blood-flow, prevent damage, increase flexibility, and nurture muscle growth. They do this daily as a stand-alone activity, before, after, and during workouts. 

In nurturing our inner master-poet, we can't stretch our mind in the same way as we can our body. However, we can certainly stretch our mind by providing it with foreign thought. This can be as simple as reading the morning paper and pondering the implications of what we read, to reading the works of a controversial philosopher, or learning about an new approach to thought. 

We want to try to think in new ways about things and continually dispel our preconceived notions. It is in this way that we lay the groundwork for a "superhighway of thought" which produced our own unique patterns. It is only through trying to understand things in new ways that we find the spirit of our own true understanding of things. This will carry over to the statements we produce when writing.

Form

For a bodybuilder, form is essential to producing results. Form ensures the quality of our workouts. A builder must maximize the efficiency of each repetition. Continually increasing our poetic form and technique is crucial to achieving the same result. This is where, yes, we do study our techniques.

We must learn about different techniques, but we must exercise proper form when doing so. It is not proper form to learn of a technique then treat it as though it is a new "all-powerful" weapon. Beyond preference, we should not categorize a technique by its qualifying characteristics. A technique is not a good technique or a bad technique, it merely is. An evaluation one way or another either prevents a technique from being used at the right moment or ensures it's overuse. A technique must be allowed to merely exist. We are what we limit ourselves to being. If we do not limit ourselves, what, then, is there to say that we are not unlimited?

Time to Work

It is not necessarily enough that we learn of a technique's existence. One component of our workout must be the exercise of said techniques. This must not necessarily be aimed at producing a masterpiece or even a full poem, but it must be aimed at pushing one's own limits. Remember, we are building. We must continually stack the bricks higher if we are ever to reach heaven. 

Our workouts must be full-bodied. If a bodybuilder would be mocked for having an overdeveloped upper body and disproportionate legs, how much more, then, would a poet who can produce a wonderful line but not a coherent statement or meaning? This is not to say that we do not need more work in one area or another. However, we should maintain and expand all areas of our poetic mind, whether it be our line construction, sentiment, images, metaphors or prosody? 

Nutrition and Rest

I recommend for the aspiring poet a steady diet of life and poems. Once we have worked our poetic mind, we must, at all cost, provide it with nourishment and allow it to recover. The brain needs rest as much as the body. Take time. Read a new poet's work. Go out, live life. Ensure a steady supply of emotion and experience for the next time you write. Allow the mind time to build and it will allow you to move more weight the nest time you use it.

And now, the Show

What good does all of this do if we never get to use it? When, and only when, we are stricken with an idea that we feel the need to express, it is time to write. This is not a moment to be forced. We will know when it is time. The true poet will have laid the groundwork to make the most of this moment. Will you?
More lunacy from the resident lunatic.

Update 6/14: Thank you for the DD! And thank you in advance for any collecting! :)
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Daily Deviation

Given 2013-06-14
The Poetic Mind as a Muscle by ~K47454k1 an interesting view on how poets operate. Layered with some great advise that could benefit those new to poetry. ( Featured by BeccaJS )
:iconl-inque:
L-Inque Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
This is a great article. I agree with the final paragraph to a point. I do sometimes find myself forcing it when I haven't been inspired to write for a while, which makes for bad writing. Then again, all of that free writing can spark a writing frenzy that will go on for hours or days. This can also be ground work. I guess it's depends on the individual.
Congrats on your DD! :)
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013   Writer
Go out and live life.
Ensure a steady supply of emotion and experience for the next time you write.


:+fav: "Amen." That's true for all writing, really.
Reply
:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013  Professional Writer
Thanks for the comment! As a funny anecdote I read the comment and thought you were quoting someone much smarter than I that had said something similar, until I did a double take and said "whoa, it was me that said that!"

And then I found a typo! XD
Reply
:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013   Writer
:lol: Glad you found a typo and know how smart you are.

This is now featured here [link]
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:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013  Professional Writer
Thanks! I'm honored. :heart:
Reply
:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2013   Writer
:iconyourewelcomesignplz:
Reply
:iconsigma-echo-seven:
Sigma-Echo-Seven Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Student Writer
This is poetry unto itself.
Reply
:iconhfeather53:
Hfeather53 Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
congratulations!
Reply
:iconschneefuechsin:
Schneefuechsin Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Congratulations on the DD! :hug:
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:iconthegalleryofeve:
TheGalleryOfEve Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Congratulations on your well-deserved DD!!! :iconflyingheartsplz::iconlainloveplz::iconflyingheartsplz: :clap::clap::clap:
Reply
:icontaeyoongjoongsa:
TaeYoongJoongSa Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013
"However, we should maintain and expand all areas of our poetic mind, whether it be our line construction, sentiment, images, metaphors or prosody? "

I agree, sometimes we read stuff and we have no idea what they are talking about ... sometimes it leads to downright weirdness

I guess "there are times when we all have it" but we should try to make sense of it or explain it in a coherent way and if possible, with beauty /
grace / originality or impact
Reply
:icontaeyoongjoongsa:
TaeYoongJoongSa Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013
"An evaluation one way or another either prevents a technique from being used at the right moment or ensures it's overuse."

No ... it's supposed to be about when to use the technique
Reply
:icontaeyoongjoongsa:
TaeYoongJoongSa Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013
"This leads to certain diseases within the mind, whether it be the idea that our words are beyond reproach because they are "self expression," or we decide that words come out and that's all there is to it. "

In making poetry I don't believe we should use JUST ANY WORDS but it has to roll with some kind of idea or emotion behind it ... and then later
if we feel a need to ... we can correct / clean it up / refine it.


"Beyond preference, we should not categorize a technique by its qualifying characteristics. A technique is not a good technique or a bad technique, it merely is. An evaluation one way or another either prevents a technique from being used at the right moment or ensures it's overuse. A technique must be allowed to merely exist."

I want to ask: does this mean you "believe there should be NO criticism to exist at all?" I just want to know if that's what you mean
Reply
:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Professional Writer
this isn't related to the realm or criticism in any way as it is in regards to the application of a technique and the decision regarding whether or not to use said technique.
Reply
:iconparsat:
Parsat Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013   Writer
This is excellent stuff!
Reply
:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Professional Writer
I'm glad you enjoyed it :)
Reply
:icondarkacey:
DarkAcey Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I enjoy how organized these steps are, and I plan to follow them to improve my writing. I believe that the analogy between bodybuilding and poetry can be extended to nearly any other art form, but I like that you chose to focus on just one aspect of art. It makes these steps feel much more cohesive.
Reply
:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Professional Writer
When poetry is the one you know about, that's what you do. ;)
Reply
:iconneo-mahakala-108:
neo-mahakala-108 Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
i do not understand but i'll try.
Reply
:iconlintu47:
lintu47 Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
    Congrats on the DD! :dalove:
    Have a nice day! :heart:
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Professional General Artist
I like this analogy a lot. I am wondering if there are some exercises (seriously, no pun intended) you can come up with for each section. I know you offered some examples here and there (for instance, reading the morning paper under "The Stretch"), but I'm thinking this would be a great opportunity to come up with some concrete exercises for people who are looking to get into practice of honing their poetry muscles. Are there any specific ones you would recommend? What kinds of things should they be looking for in the poems they read?
Reply
:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Professional Writer
I think, that just like building, it's subjective. I think it's not a perfect analogy, but there are simple things you can do: promptwriting to warm up, playing word games, for the diet portion I'd honestly suggest either going out to local readings/open mic nights, or going to the library and investigating poets you've never heard of.

I think being playful, more than anything, helps me.

I look at the brain like a bonsai tree. it's all about making the right cuts.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner May 26, 2013  Professional General Artist
I seriously think this would be a great thing for the community to do. Like put all our heads together and come up with some exercises to fit with this analogy and have a writers boot camp or something, maybe extended over a week, but possibly a month. What do you think?
Reply
:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner May 27, 2013  Professional Writer
heh, well possibly, but I'm not exactly what you would call a paragon of likability around here.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner May 27, 2013  Professional General Artist
What? D: What do you mean??
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:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner May 27, 2013  Professional Writer
I tend to say things that people don't like, and I've frankly given up censoring myself.
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:iconthebrassglass:
TheBrassGlass Featured By Owner May 28, 2013  Professional General Artist
o,0 What happened? D:
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:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner May 28, 2013  Professional Writer
oh I'd have to give you my biography to explain what's led to me degenerating into a giant ball of snide.
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:iconnichrysalis:
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner May 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Something that any aspiring poet needs to hear at some point in their lives. Well-written, and needs to be heard. Coincidentally, my father was a bodybuilder in his spare time and myself, a poet.
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:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner May 23, 2013  Professional Writer
Hah! Perhaps not such differing crafts.

I think this applies to most art these days. Folks view art as divinity.
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:iconnichrysalis:
Nichrysalis Featured By Owner May 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Perhaps not. :)
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:iconihavenopseudonym:
IHaveNoPseudonym Featured By Owner May 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Lunacy? I think not. Brilliantly insightful is more like it. Aside from the intended audience, English teachers should be reminded of this. I love the last paragraph and it's implications.
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:iconk47454k1:
K47454k1 Featured By Owner May 23, 2013  Professional Writer
Thank you for that. :)

I tend to think in odd ways and I never know what's not just crazytalk.
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:iconihavenopseudonym:
IHaveNoPseudonym Featured By Owner May 23, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I feel the same way. Sometimes I read things I've written and think, "Wow, I hope that makes sense to someone other than me."
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