Percy Shelly Quote

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Percy Shelly Quote

Postby Mr. Rogers » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:54 am

"Poetry is not like reasoning, a power to be exerted according to the determination of the will. A man cannot say, 'I will compose poetry.' The greatest poet even cannot say it; for the mind in creation is as a fading coal, which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness; this power arises from within, like the color of a flower which fades and changes as it is developed..." Percy Shelly in A Defense of Poetry.

I came across this quote as I was riding to school this morning. Any CAA writers have any thoughts on it?

It seems like it would be good for anyone who enjoys creative writing of any kind, but is stuck in a bout of writer's block. I know there are techniques you can use to get some good writing going again. Maybe those things could be the "invisible influence" and "inconsistent wind" that Shelly talks about that begin to fan the flame of our creativity.

What does everyone else think?
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Postby Lynna » Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:20 pm

I love poetry, and I think this quote is acctually somehting I never realized before. Maybe I should try it sometime...the problem is, when I try writing poetry by my fealings alone, I just end up with a mumble-jumble of abstract prose. (which normaly happens when I try to write a poem of any kinsd
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Postby Kaori » Thu Sep 09, 2010 9:11 am

Interesting quote. I can agree with Shelley in a certain sense, but for the most part I disagree. I think that you can sit down and decide to write a poem, in the same way you can sit down and decide to write anything else. Part of poetry is playing around with the sounds of words, and in that sense it is very possible to deliberately write something that plays with sound, meter, and rhyme. And even if playing with words isn’t your primary goal for writing a poem, or if you write open form poetry instead of more traditional poetry, I do think it’s possible to make yourself write a poem. Most writers who actually write stuff are the ones who discipline themselves to make themselves write, because if you wait for a moment of inspiration, you might possibly be waiting forever.

Shelley was a Romantic poet, so I think the reason he says this sort of thing is because the Romantic movement placed great emphasis on emotion, and if you want to capture an emotion, or the feel of a certain moment, that is definitely something that is best done in the heat of the moment, without waiting. That’s the sense in which I would agree with him.

So, in short, I agree in that there are certain things—emotions, experiences, flashes of inspiration—that do need to be captured right away (and then can be revised at leisure); however, I think that not all poetry is necessarily like that (for example, I’ve written poetry for assignments before, and so have many other people), and that it is possible to write poetry according to a determination of the will. One has to take these Romantic ideas with a grain of salt.
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Postby the_wolfs_howl » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:15 pm

If I can apply Shelley's quote to prose, then I have a perfect example of when writing needs to be "exerted according to the determination of the will."

Several years ago, I got an idea for a story called "The Never-Land" (which is basically a post-apocalyptic re-imagining of Peter Pan with a lot of liberties taken). I wrote the first few pages - the first scene, I guess - in the first flurry of inspiration, which came from a quiet, melancholy mood I sometimes get that urges me to write. The mood passed after I tried to convey it on paper, so I decided to wait until I got that mood and urge to write again.

Well, guess what? Several years later, and that mood still hadn't come. So it took an organized writing project and a truckload of willpower to get it finished. At that point, if I'd waited until more inspiration came along, that story would never have gotten finished. And if you ask me, a finished story that sounds a little bland and uninspired is a lot better than a blank page waiting for inspiration. Because you can always go back and fix up a bad first draft, but you can't do much with a story that isn't there.
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Postby Mr. Rogers » Fri Sep 17, 2010 4:18 pm

I think stories are a bit different than poetry - at least most formats of it. Poetry is also not just playing with words, there must also be substance to go along with it, or it will be written and die. Poems seem to be of a different substance than stories - so I don't know if the comparison between story and poem is completely valid.

Disciple and study have some place - you must know what good writing looks like before you can write it and you can learn vocabulary and form, but it is certainly not just will power. You can have all the will power in the world and still not be able to write anything, and even when you do force yourself to write something, that doesn't necessarily mean it will be good.

Thoughts? More questions?
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