Creating a Text – Paul Sutherland
What are the phases involved in the creating of a text?
* Phases of Creation
* Let the poem guide its creation.
* I wonder if the Biblical God had a master plan, or when he saw he’d created birds did he only then think of fish; when created earth only at the instance of that wonderful sight did he imagine water.
* God may have created the universe in seven days. That seems about right in the number of phases I can detect.
* Perhaps, the initial input is inspirational but it could come through creative reading – a term you once used. Books lead to books.
* Reading an excellent poem inspires me to attempt my own.
* The transition from reading to writing is hardly direct, but involves numerous other influences that inform the emerging poem, when I’m sat at my desk actually writing.
* This unlegislated element that actually writing or typing seems to not only to reproduce the text, but help create it. * It doesn’t surprise me that ‘unwriting’ readers think in dualistic terms of individual inspiration or a formula; either way the reader can’t imagine the power of the text to direct its own fate. Yet to me this departure is a key moment in creation, when I stop listening to my ego and other poets, instead to what the scribbles in front of me on the paper are saying ‘themselves’.
* The Biblical God rested on the seventh day. Perhaps he rested every day after an instant of creation or an hour, or as Dylan Thomas said, you can’t achieve much after two hours.
* Letting the poem rest in fallow seems essential in creating a finished work. Does the poem work on itself? I don’t know but I know that when after a week, month, better longer, I return to the poem it has changed, is more naked in one sense and full of more potential in another.
* Time-creation helps disrupt formulaic tendencies; because new influences have reached me: new poems read, new experiences felt, new observations made, and new language streams have been waded. When I return to the poem, these fresh influences come into play, are applied. One new word can change a whole poem; can open potential unseen at first.
* Editing is an enduring joy and pain. Mostly my poems must undergo this inspection, enhanced by feedback from honest readers is part of this phase.
* Reading poems out loud in public is a significant stage; how does the audience respond to your voice and words, also you hear the flat notes much better when in the pressured moment of performance.
* God may’ve been satisfied after seven days but some poets rarely are. I have to spend sometimes years in re-writing, reading and gaining feedback before I’ll believe the poem has any quality. I must change and refine it in some way.
This is a result of a work ethic; it’s very difficult for me to separate the notion of achievement from timed effort. But Michael Longley read from his collected works a poem that took five minutes to write. Perhaps as I become older – and am weaker sleepier – I’ll accept reward from less exertion.
* The general reader -as I did – finds it hard to believe the number of hands that go into creating a piece of work; like one God, to the general public, there must be one author. Yet experience shows that the comments and reflections of friends as interested readers is part of the creative process. A classic example is the Waste Land which I believed was Eliot’s work alone, very Newtonian; not a collaboration of editor and author and a remarkable reader. It appears disturbing for the devout reader to think that they must seek a handful of signatures; especially if you throw the question back. I mean if you imply that they have helped create the book. Perhaps one day books will be seen as the product of a communal creativity and the artist as its conduit; I think in ancient Greece this could’ve been the case, at least sometimes. Yes, queues at book signing would disappear if the reader was expected to write their own signature. It’s that question of authority, authorship, if this illusion was replaced by a collective ownership the whole publishing industry would collapse.
* The cult of the author’s supreme power must prevail, either as single inspiration or the master of a recognized formula, though both are remote from what I consider the complex phases of creation.
* God then is a sole authority figure, but even the big bang suggests a distant one act to creation. From genesis or an initial explosion a formula is produced that’s only repeated. The complex, difficult path of interaction, relativity, one event affecting another is still difficult to sell in places of worship as it is in a bookshop.
* I enjoy the evidence of collaborators or co-conspirators; enjoy being seen as the author.
I’m a relative creator who welcomes and uses other influences to create. The initial inspiration is often suppressed under the strength of the poem (creation creating itself) and formula becomes distorted as I struggle to be true to what is emerging as ‘my’ poem.
Paul Sutherland is a poet and the editor and founder of the international literary magazine, Dream Catcher.