For National Poetry Month, I’m writing poems inspired by words, ideas, and images in Virginia Woolf’s Diary.
Of course what readers find most interesting in the Diaries are not the constant round of teas, dinners, lunches, parties, or the cranky and occasionally cruel comments about friends and acquaintances but the insight into Woolf’s art. She is very interested in capturing and understanding her own process. Passivity, emptiness after finishing a novel, a period of feeling that ideas won’t ever come again, she’s dried up and done. Then an image comes to her. She lets it percolate for a bit, then sits by the fire and makes up an entire novel between tea and dinner. (On one afternoon she makes up both Orlando and The Waves at the same time in the same journal entry!). She doesn’t write it right away. She lets the novel begin to develop and grow in her mind, sometimes for several months or even a year, before she begins writing it.
This poem is working with passages from the Diary about Orlando and The Waves.
As for my next book, I am going to hold myself from writing till I have it impending in me: grown heavy in my mind like a ripe pear; pendant, gravid, asking to be cut or it will fall.
For some weeks, since finishing The Lighthouse I have thought myself virgin, passive, blank of ideas. I toyed vaguely with some thoughts of a flower whose petals fall; of time all telescoped into one lucid channel though wh. my heroine was to pass at will. The petals falling. But nothing came of it.
France: near the sea; at night; a garden under the window. But it needs ripening.
Day #18: This Novel Is Not a Body
this novel is not a body
though it grew from seed
a flower whose petals fall
the petals falling
the pear ripening on the tree
the words heavy, swollen, pendant