Posted by: Viola | September 15, 2014

Poetry as experiment

I am willing to bet that writing a poem is about 95% experimentation. And then perhaps 5% of polishing or fine-tuning whatever that experimentation yielded. The ideas and words and lines and form/structure of the poem are all little experiments, running along together, running side by side. And the poet is just a scientist mixing things up, running these multiple simultaneous tests.

I am not very good at experimenting. I tend to like having things done, complete. That’s impossible with poems. Most poems. Yes, I suppose there are those rare poems that just happen. They arrive fully formed. They just pop into one’s mind and “Mon Dieu! C’est parfait.”

But most poems are a process of trying many times, trying and failing, trying again, failing again, succeeding in one area but failing in another. I think some finished poems are actually still experiments. They are being tested, however, in new ways outside the writing lab. They get sent out into the world to see how people respond to them. But they are far from perfect, and they are just being their experimental selves.

Maybe life is the same. Just some kind of ongoing experiment. With lots of trying and lots of failing, holding out for that rare and exquisite success. And life is not finished, even when it seems to be done. The reactions continue. The results continue. The whole chain of events goes on. Products continue to emerge, by-products continue to be created, energy continues to be consumed and released. Things come together, and go apart. People come together and move apart. Things evolve in unexpected ways, and occasionally, they turn out just as you might have dreamed.

So life and poetry are some kind of swirling magic happening in a jar, in a room. A cosmic jar. A cosmic room. Little explosions. Big explosions. All happening millions and millions at a time. Anywhere. Everywhere. All the time. Even in sleep, and perhaps, even in death, the great experimental march of humanity and creativity continues.

Put your goggles on. Put your gloves on. Put your lab coat on. Wear some safety shoes that cover your toes. Switch the fume hood on. Please lay your beakers out. Check your equipment and power it up. Get your lab kit ready. Keep good lab notes and lab reports. Get to work and do your writing. Do your living.



  1. That was fabulously worded

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Wishing you the best in your journey with poetry. ~ Viola

  2. What a great post ! Thank you for sharing this 😊 xx

    • Thank you so much! You are most welcome. I look forward to writing more posts on what it’s like being a poet and working on a poetry collection. ~Viola

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