Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Inspiration comes in lots of forms.

For me, the problem with writing is always about inspiration. Sometimes, I can sit down and tap something out in 5 minutes. It might not be good or even make much sense, but it's there. Other times, I sit here and I read other blogs and can come up with nothing worth writing about for mine. Some weeks, there is just nothing going on in my life and then there are weeks where so much is happening that I have no time to sit down.

While subbing a few weeks ago, I got to teach about one of my favorite writers--Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I especially love "Kubla Khan," particularly these lines:

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced :
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail :
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean :

Those lines occur about midway through the poem and Coleridge is speaking of inspiration. He says that it springs forth with no warning and flows for a time before disappearing completely into "a lifeless ocean." I can relate. Many times, I think of something good to wrote about while doing something else, but it is gone by the time I sit down.

Coleridge also writes about the difficulty faced in trying to recapture the exact words that you have composed in your head. He writes:

Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome ! those caves of ice !
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry,

He is speaking here of the song the lady with the dulcimer sings in his vision. He says that he wishes he could remember the song (or the lines of poetry composed in his head) because, if he could, he could build the palace of Kubla Khan in the air and everyone would be able to see it. Not only, would they be able to visualize the palace, but also the warrior and they would be able to hear the lady's song.

A great poet can convey emotion through writing and cause you to visualize what they are speaking of. I think that Coleridge succeeds in this. There are other poems of his that I love also, but this is definitely one of my favorites. I think he captures the fleeting nature of inspiration. Well, either that, or he shows the reader what good opium he was taking. Truthfully, I think he felt that his laudanum use was detrimental to his writing because as soon as he had composed a piece, he would forget it.

You can read the entire poem here.

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