In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood, where the straight way had been lost. DANTE Inferno
Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox / It enters the dark hole of the head / The window is starless still; the clock ticks, / The page is printed. TED HUGHES The Thought-Fox
To write a poem, imagine you are lost in a green, dark forest, and have to write your way out of it. Hesitantly, you test a word here and a word there: rowan, perhaps, or lichen or redstart, even leporine or lepidoptera, but the forest is bigger and darker than ever. You try separating the words with a dot or a comma or a space, or a symbol you’ve never seen before on any keypad, but the words become stranger not clearer. So you pluck a leaf from a lime tree, a cone from a pine tree, a squeak from a mouse and a slither from a snake, and you string them together like beads on a rosary, and at first they shine like pearls or diamonds, but quite suddenly they hang as dead as crows on a gibbet, or as mixed metaphors in the hands of a budding, blogger poet.
More urgent now, more feverish, you scribble or tap the tang of woodsmoke, the glow of glowworms, the hint of expectancy, the hum of silence, until you make up or make out a faint path before you between birch trees, a winding path which takes you past earth-mould, bark-sap, fox-musk, beechmast, passion fruit, mandrake root, black morel, chanterelle, asphodel; and just when you sense a wider sky ahead, the glimpse of a clearing, the border of night and day, the edge of a dream, you wake from your word-dream and find you are still deep in the green, dark forest, your heart trembling and glittering like the wings of a dragonfly hovering over a still pool, and just for a moment you are speechless and wordless, somehow beyond words and commas and p’s and q’s and dots and signs and hieroglyphs and spaces, beyond thoughts and ideas, even beyond things, somewhere in an unknown, more open and sunlit place...
... and right there, in that place, on your own, lost in a dream of reality or the reality of a dream, you discover, unexpectedly and magically, that your poem has been written...
(Image from Wikimedia Commons: Fox's den near Jastrzębia Góra, Poland. Attributed to Leafnode.)