There are two types of writing. Sometimes you’ve got to labour away at something and force it out, and other times the idea forces itself out of you, and all you had to do is put pen to paper. As Sarah Kay charmingly describes it, writing a poem is like pooping; if it’s in you, it has to come out, whether it’s easy or difficult.
Free-writing has been brought to my attention on several occasions recently, and I found myself increasingly appreciating the idea of the technique. Writing without thinking for a period of time will inevitably spout the words of your subconscious. But then, all my early poems tended to be similar to a first draft of free verse. Uneducated technique aside, there was something in those poems that relieved me. Clearly, writing to write was doing something.
In addition to being a useful way of siphoning through one’s foremost thoughts to important things underneath, free-writing is a great way to pour out everything in your head about a certain topic. This is particularly true when a theme for a piece of writing is floating around; it creates a mass of words, phrases, images, and essentially the building blocks with which to construct a poem.
When I was in Namibia, the full moon and Milky Way was so bright that you could walk through the night without any artificial light and find your way. In fact, I stayed in a place with such little light pollution that shooting stars became a common occurrence to me. When these two realities coincided on the same night, I threw myself upon a termite mound at 10PM, opened up my notebook, and poured out my heart. I’ve since decided that it was this bad idea that led to me needing glasses, but who knows!
The result came out like free verse. However, there was a beginning to my thoughts, a middle, and an end, and some solid themes. Shortly after, I re-wrote that mass of words and ideas into this poem that I’ll share with you. This second version had a more structured approach, an iambic rhythm, and ABABB rhyming scheme, but still flowed relatively easily from me. I never wrote it up as I assumed I would edit it, but I haven’t done so because it’s a snapshot of my thoughts at that time. It seems that it was something I felt deeply, though perhaps consciously tried to avoid. Anyhow, this poem is called “This Shooting Star”. Hope you enjoy.
This Shooting Star
My heart is lost amid the night,
As every star must soon depart,
For love does fly when borne so light,
When fishing deep among the stars,
Oh woe, my sorry, senseless heart.
The darkness now is not so deep,
Tonight my shadow bears no harm,
This sleeping scape I beg will keep,
For if the third time has its charm,
I’d wish upon this shooting star.
Desires have died where nothing grew,
But here the flowers grow from storms,
Therefore tonight I dream anew,
Of sleeping ‘til my own new dawn,
When both my days and heart are warm.
I beg these sentinels take heed,
As, falling, now my heart is found,
And open to my lonely need:
To catch it as it plummets down,
Before it dies upon the ground.
Indulge me, will my tree not bloom?
My sorry heart have gladness known?
My only friend remain the moon,
Who followed me here, far from home,
Pretending he too is alone?
His kind and kin nearby reside,
Some old have cleaned themselves, I see,
Though new have pushed them far aside,
This hardened, wary company,
But still my old friend welcomes me.
His wintercoat welcomes my words,
And smile illuminates my page.
I bleed the while he grants me nerve,
He reads for pleasure all my pain,
Then fades ‘til I can’t read again.
So grant me that my tree may bloom,
If ink and blood may fuel this heart,
Indulge me, my old friend, the moon,
And heed what can’t these deafest stars,
Let not this be the way we part.
I know dreams must away with light,
And though I know I’d hold her fast,
I’d let her go as ends the night,
For nothing good can truly last,
So at that time, I’ll let her pass.
But cruel clouds rise to join the moon,
Eclipsing him and all his light.
I know he will return quite soon,
And this he will with all his fight.
Until then, there is only night.
A star can only fall so far,
‘til it cannot be seen at all,
And disappears into the dark,
To live on, hushed, invisible,
So how far then can my heart fall?