"It is like watching a fire and seeing the first lick of flame along a log: you think it is about to catch but then it vanishes. You watch and wait for the flame to come back. It doesn't -- and then, after you have stopped looking, the flame flickers back again and the log catches" (109-10.)
This is Geoff Dyer's description of the birth of a poem in Out of Sheer Rage.
Out of Sheer Rage is a book about not writing a book. Yep, that sounds pretty weird. And this book is pretty weird. But it's also funny, with lovely gems throughout it. Like this description of poetry.
The narrator (Dyer? I'm not sure...) is reading D.H. Lawrence's letters in preparation for the book that doesn't get written, and in those letters finds the roots of poems that he is familiar with. For example, in one letter he finds a story about how Lawrence came upon an adder unexpectedly -- Lawrence wrote of this experience, "She often comes into my mind, and I think I see her asleep int he sun, like a Princess of the fairy world. It is queer, the intimidation of other worlds, which one catches" (109.) The narrator recognized in this story the roots of Lawrence's famous poem, "Snake".
(I actually just did an online search, and you can read "Snakes" here. It's quite an interesting poem.)
As a poet I find this discussion of poetry quite interesting. So I'd like to end with one last quote...
"Who can say when a poem begins to stir, to germinate, in the soil of the writer's mind? There are certain experiences waiting to happen: like the snake at Lawrence's water trough, the poem is already there, waiting for him The poem is waiting for circumstances to activate it, to occasion its being written" (111.)
I've thought before that there is a poem in everything, and either people just do not see the poem or that they do not equal to the task of setting it down on paper. What do you think?
EDITED on 11/9/10: I found out from my professor just a few hours after writing this that Out of Sheer Rage is a memoir, and that the narrator is in fact Dyer. Yes, this is a school book for my English class. :)