Splat poems

Some time back a friend and I were talking about the process of writing poems. We agreed that some poems just come out of the unconscious and land on the paper. We called these ‘splat’ poems. They didn’t need much work on them, and they often contained startlingly original images and connections that our conscious minds would not have come up with. I’ve lost touch with her temporarily, but I hope she’s still writing wonderful splat poetry.

I started thinking about it the other day when another friend wrote to me about rewrites and revisions. Further reflection brought in the Classical dichotomy between the Apollonian and the Dionysian, where the rational, measured, harmonious, thoughtful and logical approach is contrasted with the irrational, emotional, high-energy and chaotic – think Spock and Bones. I believe you need a bit of both, but with me the splat poems definitely originate from the Dionysian side. If I need to rework them I’m using the Apollonian hemisphere, but I always worry about losing some of the energy.

The wellsprings of poetic inspiration are somewhere hidden and inaccessible to conscious thought processes. We become aware of visions, ideas, lines, phrases which pop into being unforced and unsought, and our conscious mind then realises that a poem can be formed from them.

I remember doing a workshop in a school class which had a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. When I asked the class to write a stanza he wrote a page. The page contained some wonderful writing, visions of a world where history and legend co-existed with reality, and where nature was distorted in strange and lurid ways. He told me he could not help it – he couldn’t stop writing until the thought was finished. It was the the same with speech, he said. He seemed to be exploring all of the ‘what if?’ branch points of his thoughts. I formed a view that an internal ‘editor’ was either switched off or not working properly, compared to the rest of us. [For an incredibly interesting view of the autism spectrum, Temple Grandin’s works provide some amazing insights.] The result was, it seemed to me, that he lived his entire life in a maelstrom of inspiration and sensation, within the wellspring itself.

The methods we use to access these wellsprings vary according to the personality of the artist. There have been poets who believed they wrote better after an injudicious intake of drink (Hart Crane), drugs (Samuel Taylor Coleridge), sex or rock ‘n roll. Others favour tea or meditation. Long walks and/or good company do it for me. The following splat poem came from a walk along the East Fife Coastal Path, and was first published in Fife Lines, now sadly defunct, then collected in Seven Senses (diehard, 2000).

The approval of seals

Today we’ll be sea-things;
you’ll be a seal and I’ll be
a different seal. We’ll
swerve and flash
through the kelp stipes,
trailing silver bubble-trains
from our flipper-tips.

What’s the seal-doing word?
Cavort – that’s it – seals cavort
like no other creatures.
Do sloths cavort?
No, sloths brummage in the branches,
with their moths.
Dromedaries lollop,
while elephants proceed.

Only we seals cavort,
having the grace and wit
to enjoy seal-ness,
the sea’s beanfeasts,
and its scope for frolic.

Above, in silhouette against the blue,
a shag whisks the waves to soft peaks,
thrashing feathers back into line.
Shoreward we hear
the fizzing rattle of pebbles
in the wave’s backwash.

Being seals we live only now,
where the word is made fish.
The past is a tablet of overwritten dreams,
and we cheerfully ignore
the abyssal darkness
where a fear-filled future upwells.

Colin Will


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
This entry was posted in Asperger's, inspiration, poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Splat poems

  1. midnightoilbooks says:

    Who was Fife Lines published by? Do you know?

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