Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about listening, about inviting conversation–as opposed to talking at.
This next exercise is a two-parter, today and tomorrow. It comes from Ada Limón’s “The Echo: Same-Language Translation” in Wingbeats II. And it’s inspired by stories of writers who do not read–or do not read in their own genre–because they’re concerned about being influenced by others’ works. I don’t know whether these reports are true, or whether they’re a kind of literary urban legend.
I think of poems as being in conversation with other poems, and for me reading is the best way to expand my perceptions and get me into the zone.
Okay, enough with the diatribe.
Take a poem you’ve been having trouble with. Read it, and then set it aside.
Now, find a poem by someone else–a poem that you love. Spend some time with it–read closely. Absorb the title, the first line, the way each line carries to the next, the movement of the poem as a whole. Listen to the sounds and the way the sounds emphasize or play against the words’ meanings.
Translate that poem into your own poem–trying to forget, as much as possible, your original poem.