Poets and writers draw material from every day experience, from place, from memory and from interactions.
I gather together the dreams, fantasies, experiences that preoccupied me as a girl that stay with me and appear and reappear in different shapes and forms in all my work. Without telling everything that happened, they document all that remains most vivid. ~Bell Hooks, essayist
The past is never dead. It’s not even past. ~William Faulkner, novelistCertain experiences mark us, and images and memories lodge in the subconscious to emerge and re-emerge in dreams and in stories. They frame an individual's reality and filter new experience. In poetry, another element is the body.
Paul Valery said the difference between poetry and other kinds of writing is physiological. Poetry is connected to the breath. Whether or not the poem is in formal verse, the rhythm, meter, and beat affect the lines in a poem, and these affect the reader who speaks these lines. In a poem, a reader steps into the breath of the writer for a few moments and from the writer, through the page, experiences the images, the body, and the experience. What has marked another writer is capable of marking a reader.
Writing teacher William Zinsser said:
Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events. It’s not; it’s a deliberate construction.As a window, a photograph, and a deliberate construction, the image and poem is grounded in the body and also is a pattern of sound. It may be lyrical or not. It may be formal or not. The poet chooses words, vowels, consonants. The poet creates the energy.
I think of the poem as an instrument. It is a body with memory; a culture with a his(her)story. It has a shape with a resonant chamber, an architecture with a listening space, an ear for sound and composition. The poet deliberates on every element: the sound might be mellifluous or cacophonous. The poet makes the pauses and almost-rhymes, the length of lines and stanzas, and the arrangements and disarrangements. Along its strings or nerves, music rises in the images. Listen. See.