Time vs Poetry

One interesting observation I’ve made over my three odd years of writing poetry is that time plays a very important, yet underestimated role in the writing and forming of a poem. This is something I suspect may be overlooked by a lot of people (myself included for a long time) and just wanted to dedicate a post to honouring it’s significance and either bring it to your attention or simply remind you of something you may have begun to take for granted even if you were aware of it.

I made this observation when I decided to experiment with my poetry and set myself the task of writing a poem with some restrictions. These were: 1) I could only write the poem when I was on the last bus home from Birmingham. 2) It had to be about my thoughts during these bus journeys. 3) As soon as I got off the bus I had to stop writing and not touch the piece until I was back on said bus (I broke this final rule once on the walk home from the bus stop but only to complete a line, I managed to forgive myself).

The results, I found, were very interesting. The piece had no real flow of narrative and was more like a scrap-book of a collection of thoughts and feelings. I’m not sure about anyone else but I could definitely tell where one bus journey ended and the next began. I realise it may partly be because I wrote it but even so I feel the shift in topic makes it quite apparent.

Now this is just a time frame of a couple of months. If you take this even further the effects become much greater. For example: When I was at Uni I wrote one of my earliest pieces about my best friend at the time. Basically about how much I loved and appreciated her as a friend etc. It’s been a few years since then and regrettably we’re no longer friends, the point being if I had chosen to write that piece now (or if I had only gotten half way through and decided to finish it now) it would be completely different or would take a very different turn respectively. The subject area is the same but the themes, tones and emotions of the piece would be drastically different.

Emotion in a piece is arguably the most affected because emotions are very fickle and transitory. You can go through a vast array in a short space of time. And as a lot of writers in general are inspired to write based on a strong emotion, whether or not they finish that piece of writing before the emotion has passed by can also make a vast difference on the piece. You may start writing something when you’re angry but not finish it, when you return to it a day/week/month/year later, chances are you wont feel that exact same emotion again (even if its similar) and so the piece could suddenly take an emotional and possibly even subjective turn.

The same can apply to opinions, beliefs, perspectives etc. If you start writing a piece about something based on your opinion or view of it (whether it be political, spiritual, humanistic etc). and then discard it for a few years and then return to it, your views, opinions, beliefs about that topic may have changed. People are constantly growing and evolving intellectually and spiritually. You may review some old writing and question how you could ever have had such a perspective and laugh at your younger self. Then you have a choice of whether to discard the piece, continue it but with your new perspective or re-write the piece completely.

The summation of this time vs poetry post is quite simple. I feel it’s important to consider how time affects your poetry. Whether you tend to write pieces in one sitting, over a period of days/weeks/months etc. and maybe experiment with that by trying to alter the amount of time you take to form a piece. Hopefully you’ll be able to learn more about your art and grow as an artist.