A while back, I decided I hadn’t read enough Marcel Proust. To better equip myself with his viewpoints and his genius, I began reading his work with serious, scholarly depth. My intent was not to generate my own writing, but to better understand his so that I would be able to utilize his philosophies in academic endeavors.
The pleasant surprise of this “new” reading material came when I stumbled across the phrase “…kaleidoscope of darkness.” Immediately my mind began to whirl and hum with the possibilities that this contradiction provided. I turned the phrase into a first line, and wrote an entire poem inspired by it. Then, I deleted the first line. I still owe a pretty debt to Proust for his inspiration, despite his words’ disappearance from my work.
Lots of poets have moments like these — they’re reading a happy piece of summertime fiction or an article unrelated to anything literary when one certain phrase or circumstance elicits the poetic response. Maybe a memory is stirred, or perhaps an idea is initiated because a unique turn of phrase strikes the creative core just so. Whatever it is that lights our imaginative fire, those epiphanies had while reading can prove to be some of the strongest, and produce work that is often the most rewarding. No doubt this effect is why generations of poets have told younger ones to read, read, read. The more exposure one has to others’ original diction, the greater the likelihood for inspiration becomes.
Hmmmm…I suddenly feel like I could know a little more about John Stuart Mill — signing off for a while, friends. Until next time, READ.