April 12, 2016

Sunday, April 29, 2012

30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets: Honey Novick on Ars Poetica

Many poets have an "ars poetica." The term refers to a self-reflective poem, in which the author uses poetic form to examine or define the nature of poetry.

For instance, Archibald MacLeish's poem, "Ars Poetica," concludes with the oft-quoted lines:

A poem should not mean
But be.

You can read the whole poem at The Academy of American Poets.

Writing an ars poetica is a useful exercise and I am fascinated with the variety of voices these poems produce. Another one of my favorites is "How Poetry Comes to Me" by Gary Snyder. Jane Hirschfield has a poem (wish I could remember the title!) about a nameless woman in another country, sitting down to write a poem.

Here is Ontario poet Honey Novick, with her ars poetica.

by Honey Novick

(Inspired by my friend Lillian Allen)

As I age, writing connects my present to my future.

Placing pen to paper, I seek
all thoughts, experiences, expectations.
When vocalizing with others,
I ask them to tell me a story about their names,
that story is vocal expression.
Writing expresses a voice, my voice.

When I tell you that I love maple syrup,

I’m telling you more than a simple statement of fact,
more than a prosaic like or dislike,
I’m telling you that the historical, majestic maple tree
loses its foliage every autumn,
yet inside that defoliated maple tree entities are alive.
Those entities endure the harshness of winter
and when least expected but most needed,
they form little buds on the branch
an omen of hope
signalling that soon the time will come to drill a hole
into the bark of the tree,
or tap an existing spout,
awaiting the flow
of the warmest, tastiest, life-affirming sap
one can ever imagine tasting.

That is why I write.

I tell you who I am,
why I like what I like
what things mean to me.
Through writing I can share something with you.
Even if you don’t write, you can share something with me.
What you value, what you see,
What is it that makes you happy?

Do you love to dance,

take a chance,
do you think life is just happenstance?

Do you value independence,

or people telling you what to do,
letting someone else make up your mind for you?

Is your opinion important?

Do you want to be heard?
Having dialogue
is more that the noise of sounds chirred.

This why I write,

conversation, connection
daring to go beyond personal introspection.

Have you written an ars poetica? If so, did you set out to write one? I once read my poem "Driving Home from the Poetry Festival, 1996" at an event.  I was surprised when a poet came up to me and said it was an ars poetica. So maybe, like me,  you have written a poem about the act of writing poetry and didn't realize it.

My poem refers to the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, which takes place every other year in New Jersey. It's happening again in October!


Robyn Hood Black said...

Thanks to both of you for this post! I haven't (yet?!) written one of these. Laura, I remember your powerful "Driving Home" poem from Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone. (I'm thrilled my 17-year-old will be travelling to the Dodge Festival this fall!)

Author Amok said...

Robyn, your teen is going to have a fabulous time. Student day is amazing -- the energy from the HS students is exciting. I love seeing them getting hooked on poets and poetry.