I Know a Good Man When I See One

Yesterday I felt like writing some poetry. I want that experience I’ve sometimes felt when writing, probably on fewer than ten occasions in total, when a satisfying line pops into existence out of nowhere- it seems to be not of your own volition yet there’s no question that it’s exactly what you were after. It hits the spot. Anytime that’s happened it’s been at least an hour or so into writing. It doesn’t happen walking down the street. My thought was that poetry might be a shortcut to that. Or that that’s maybe the essence of poetry? Which is why I was in the mood to try it yesterday.

Sitting there, my first thought was that I’d write a Haiku because I thought there’d be good bang for my buck that way. But I looked Haiku up on wikipedia and became discouraged. You need a cutting word at the end of one line, separating two distinct moods, and it usually incorporates some ideas about the seasons. I didn’t want to have to do that kind of work. My hope was that I would hit on something I felt deeply about and then the poem would arrange itself naturally into a meaningful or attractive form.

So I started to mull over what I could write about. Immediately my walk the other day came to mind. I was walking up the residential backstreets off the main road on the return leg of my journey and I stopped to change what I had playing on my earphones. As I was stood there on the pavement a diminutive old guy, who looked a bit down on his luck, passed me and said ‘There’s a good man, I know a good man when I see one’.

I’m not sure why I’m inclined to get poetic about this rather than say my dinner of boiled potatoes with tinned meatballs. Probably because it was a novel experience and because there’s an unusual interaction between two strangers in it which gives it some charge. A poet shouldn’t need to rely on drama or novelty though, that’s what drama and …novels are for. But regardless, I dashed out my first poem in yonks in 30 seconds. It’s awful of course, being a completely thoughtless effort. What I did learn was that I like the notion of using plain language in a non-banal way and I also enjoy rhythm, so finding a form where rhythm is key would be good. In retrospect, disappointingly, I saw that I had just surrounded the main incident with second-hand ‘writing a poem now!’ ideas. So trying to think outside the box when I start to get moony-eyed is going to be necessary. Finally I got a little mopey right at the end, with a change of direction in the last two lines, in the mistaken belief that doing that would make the poem ‘big’, rather than wank. That’s another hazard to avoid.


19 thoughts on “I Know a Good Man When I See One

  1. I know what you mean about the “writing zone”, where the words arrange themselves in great sentences like beads in a beautiful necklace. With poems it’s the same, for me thinking kills the zone. The special state is a place between sleep, waking and a daydream…I think, it happens in Alpha state – the REM stage of sleep, daydreaming, meditation… Or when you are reading a book and get so immersed in it you forget where you are.
    If you have difficulty accessing this state, try meditation, I swear by it. You said, it usually happens when you write for an hour, I believe that’s when you got yourself into alpha by writing, seeing the things you were writing about just as if you were there.
    It is magical and beautiful to experience this and like you said a “release”. Good luck! Gia

  2. Make up your own poetic rules. That’s what I do. I didn’t realize I was writing poetry until other people started referring to it that way. I was just writing out my thoughts in a poetic manner. Fuck the rules.

  3. Did you finish the poem? Did you post it? I’d love to read it. I love hearing the stories behind poetry. I particularly enjoyed the way you described your walk. Your word choices and details throughout this piece are lively and interesting and somewhat unexpected, which are attributes I come to expect in good writing. 😉 Thanks for posting. Have a lovely day!

    • Oh no seriously it’s not something you’d post. It was literally a 30 second effort, just to instigate a blog post really. I would but I didn’t even save it on the computer. But thanks. Ill try again at some point.

      • Ah yes, I see…I’ll let it rest then. But, I will say sometimes that becomes the best poetry. I find that words come to me when I’m not at the computer; napkins, scraps of paper, and the Notes section of my iphone are littered with one liners or 30 second drivels that turn into something beautiful later. Happy writing and good day to you, sir! 🙂

  4. The first thing I saw of yours was so ridiculous I had to go and see what else there was. Yes I did looking before I started adding commentary to pages. It would have been unfair to do otherwise.

    You have no clue what a poet or writer of any kind for that matter relies on because quite simply, from what I’ve seen, you just aint got the parts to do it, well. Hey feel free to ask around for honest opinions.

    FYI … Drama and Novelty are excellent sources of inspiration. Why do I think your idea of what poetry should be is nothing but, “I’m so tortured and whiny I can’t even stand myself”?

  5. I reckon make your own rules, too. If it sounds good to you, it is – it’s not like you’re publishing your collected verses, just yet. So I want to see the poem – talking of collected verses! Ps also I like the random nature of the thought you had – it seems quirky to me, and therefore interesting. And pps – you ARE funny. What are you going on about, GR Hambley? Get a life!

    • haha my collected verses AND my autobiography will soon be available, wherever you buy books! Joking. Do you try poetic-ness out ever? Not sure if I’ve seen any on your blog.

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