I've been thinking hard about the writing process this week. After hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica came out last November, I wrote very little poetry until April, when I did NaPoWriMo. From then until the start of September, I did little more than revise a few of the poems written during that month.
It wasn't exactly writer's block, though. I don't think I've ever exactly rushed to get poems out there - I tend to revise a lot and the last book, for example, contained some poems that had their origin six or seven years ago - but I had decided that I'd really take my time before sending anything out to magazines, e-zines, etc.
In the last six weeks or so, though, I've started to write some new material alongside the continuing revisions, and rather to my surprise most of the poems seem to have been arriving 'complete'. That's not to say finished, but whole poems, rather than fragments (at other times I've often had beginnings and endings with no middle, or middle sections in desperate need of something to bookend them). I've resisted the temptation to send any of them out there yet, but it has had me wondering about how much of the process of composition takes place before you ever pick up pen, or keyboard. I have, I realise, been slowly writing these poems in my head for the last 12 months - it's only now the urge to get them down on paper has become irresistible.
Then, at Monday night's Nine Arches/Crystal Clear Creators Shindig, I was going to read a poem called Azul at the open mic. I started writing it about three years ago, and I'd read it a couple of times previously, at the Colour Conference at Warwick University earlier this year, and at the last Nottingham Shindig. I'd always felt that it needed more tweaking though, and as I sat there on Monday night, I suddenly realised what. I changed things around when I read it, rewrote it when I got home, and I think it's now a much stronger poem. Again, I wonder if the rewriting's actually been taking place each time I've read it, each time I've looked at it in frustration and bafflement.
So, the waiting game seems to be working for me at the moment. The problem, of course, is knowing when to trust first impressions and go with something the moment it hits the page. But that'd be a nice problem to have.