The peculiar poetry process of
Step 1: Compiling your palette.
1. Get a dictionary or thesaurus.
2. Erase your mind. You'll want to do this in a dreamy, open mood where everything looks good. You might want to even keep yourself slightly distracted. Some use music or a favorite movie.
3. Look over each and every word for the ones that make you feel something. Certain letters are quite simply beautiful. Who can resist the low luxurious curve of a "j" or the hard, bold, angry lines of a "k"? It's wise to think of meaning as well. As you pick your wods you might notice a common theme to them. Really what you're doing is working backwards, playing detective. If you can connect the words during this step you might very well figure out what you're aiming for and can address the task directly. For example, if you determine that "crime" is on your mind - you can write down what words you personally associate with crime. Again, in the beginning, just pick out the words you think look cool. You may very well find this part of the process mind-bendingly boring with is why some use music, but think of it as shopping. Every word there is totally free. Plus, remember, the strength of your palette will be the strength of your poem. Fight the temptation to think to yourself that what you are doing is pointless. It isn't!
Step 2: Finding combinations.
1. Simply try each word next to another for as many combinations as you can possibly bear. The math of how many combinations there would only discourage you - just do the best you can. Your intuition may show up to help. Remember there are tricks such as alliteration and rhymes; I for one tend to concentrate on meaning and then how they look together. Also, reading them aloud helps to see if they are balanced and flow well or if they are awkward and clunky. The "right" two words together actually give off a glow to me - probably because I have used this process so many times.
2. Once you have some good combinations, if it hasn't already happened, start stringing those together. At this stage you'll probably want to turn your brain back on and think more. Here is where I usually add more words from my mind. For example, if my two words are "haunted jaunt" I will think of a line that uses this phrase well. "I, myself, have survived your every haunted jaunt".
3. After you've generated some lines this way, start piecing them together. Again, the more combinations you try, the better the poem will be. Don't worry about making it great. All you're doing is making a million little decisions, which looks better to the human eye. You can even write these words and lines down on paper and manually put them together to divorce yourself even further from your personal prejudices. You are trying to see what random looks like, then pick the ones that happen to work the best.
Step 3: Editing the final poem.
1. So now that you've strung along lines and have a rough poem, hopefully you've figured out what you've been trying to say in this poem along the way. Meditate on your theme and try to cut out any line that is inconsistent with the overall meaning. Also, cut off any line that really doesn't need to be there to convey your meaning, but, keep in mind there are other redeeming qualities too. Perhaps a line is beautiful, or classic-sounding, or just balances out the whole. This is the most delicate part of the process. Obviously it takes the most expertise and quite frankly many other poets have written about this part of the process far more eloquently than myself. I tend more towards over-editing because I am a perfectionist. I say strike out everything but what you simply can't bear to part with. Often enough if I do that mercilessly, the lines that remain seem to slip right into place almost by their own volition. This stage obviously has to do with overcoming your ego. Too bad, most of what you write is shit, but hey, look on the bright side, the stuff that is good is really good.
The thing I like about this process is it's always right there. Poetry at the end of the day is just a craft, a skill like any other. I just can't see waiting around to get inspired. I hope "my" method (God only knows how many poets do the exact same thing, and how many more use some version thereof) teaches some of you poets how to actively seek the muse and put your unconscious mind to work. Now get to it!