Thesis Diary #3: On the Fire This Time


“No more water, fire next time.” 

Poems come into fruition exactly when they need (and want) to. I suppose, like everything else in our lives, poems are products of the Law of Cause & Effect. If I have my students practice writing thesis statements, I’m making a cause. The effect will (hopefully) be an improvement in their essays. Similarly, I try to make positive causes for my writing. Reading all types of literature, writing in my journal everyday, and simply living are all causes. My poems are the effect. Just because it’s a law, however, doesn’t mean I always see the effect when it comes. Sometimes I don’t realize what’s happened until I’m staring – in awe – at what I’ve written. What a wonderful feeling. 

Case in point: I’ve been thinking about summer thunderstorms – a vivid memory from my childhood in Texas – since I had a conversation with my mom about driving into a sudden downpour & having to pull over until the rain eased up. Since heat is an important element in my manuscript – the south is anything if not HOT during the summer – I’ve been thinking about water as a necessary pushback. Yesterday, during a sudden downpour, I started thinking about James Baldwin’s iconic essay, the title of which “The Fire Next Time” was borrowed from a slave song.  Nonetheless, when I sat down at my desk, I wasn’t planning on writing a poem. I was going to jot down a few notes & mind my own business, so to speak. Then, a line came: “When it rains like this, a flood / in mid-air…” Of its own accord, the line decided that it wanted to be a poem, right then. No more waiting: it was time write about the Fire this time. And so,  a poem happened. 

When I sat back and look at the draft, I was happy & in awe. It seemed the poem came out of nowhere, but of course: I know exactly where it came from.


4 responses to “Thesis Diary #3: On the Fire This Time

  1. What a truthful and excellent observation. These poems that capture you and leave you no choice, but to write till they decide they are finished. It always feels as if there is another creature inside of me and somehow I was able to tap into its consciousness or that I fell victim to a possession. These moments make me appreciate the theories of Jung and the deep image poets.

  2. A very accurate, and human, description of what it is to be taken my a poem. It’s strange how hard we, as writers, will work to get a poem some times, how much we may think about it, agonize over it, almost, depending on how important we feel it is to writer THAT poem, and how the next day, eating breakfast or watching TV or sitting on a bench a poem will come in ” a flood / in mid-air…”

  3. I like the way you state this: “I try to make positive causes for my writing. Reading all types of literature, writing in my journal everyday, and simply living are all causes. My poems are the effect.”

    Sometimes I feel like if I’m not actually writing or revising poems that it means I’m not working, but this puts it in perspective a bit. And it is such a wonderful experience when the poems come on their own terms, like the one you mentioned.

    (followed you from RWP, in case you’re wondering who I am)

  4. Thanks for the comments. I agree with all three of you. It’s so difficult to make sense of the writing process sometimes. I’m really trying to use this blog to work through that experience & hopefully clear things up for other poets as well.

    Emily, in particular, my writing process is influenced by my buddhist practice. For me, it goes hand in hand. That’s where my application of cause & effect stemmed from – karma. I also chant nam-myoho-renge-kyo (devotion to the mystic law of cause & effect) in the mornings & evenings & often before I sit down to write. It really helps me clear my head & get in the place I need to be in.

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