Sometimes a particular image emerges in one poem I write and then comes back once or several times more unprompted. Sometimes thereâ€™s a bit of planning or prompting involved. Iâ€™d be keen to hear whether other poets experience the same.
This is a different matter from recurring themes or topics. For example, DRAGONS are a theme, as is EXPLORATION. I can treat exploration in many different ways: itâ€™s a topic that greatly interests me, but itâ€™s not a single image. In â€śExplorersâ€ť, my focus is on the restless curiosity and adventurousness of the explorers. I recognise that their exploration has an impact on the lands they discover, and that means, like addicted people, they must move on to new lands â€“ but the impact I describe in that poem is mainly on the natural environment. In â€śVisitorâ€ť I descibe a European explorer in Africa from the Africansâ€™ point of view and where I suggest impact, itâ€™s the impact of being â€śdiscoveredâ€ť on the local people, not the environment.
Images are more mysterious. They can appear and disappear in a few words with no explanation. At one time I found the image of a dying or wounded magician repeated itself in several poems. This was not by plan (â€śI think Iâ€™ll write another poem with a wounded magicianâ€ť) and the magician was central to at least one poem, but not central to others. I donâ€™t want here to explore what that image meant to me â€“ mainly for reasons of space! Then it vanished.
Two or three poems featured a clever, rational detective in some kind of struggle with darker, perhaps more instinctive forces. In several more recently, Iâ€™ve referred to some kind of leading or beckoning female voice, never quite there to be defined and measured. Again, this is the core of two recent poems but has a more peripheral role in others. Of course, once Iâ€™ve used the image once, it stays in my consciousness and this may prompt me to re-use it. Equally, of course, it isnâ€™t unique. It may come from a â€ścollective unconsciousâ€ť which may be universal or limited to some cultures, or it may be the result of something I read in a book quietly metamorphosing in my unconscious.
In one recent poem, I made a passing reference to â€ślawless borderlandsâ€ť. This is where a bit of planning or preparation comes in, because I thought then, â€śThatâ€™s an
interesting phrase. Maybe I could expand on it in another poem.â€ť But I didnâ€™t timetable writing a poem about lawless borderlands. I let it hang around until a few days later I suddenly thought, â€śI might be ready to write that poem about lawless borderlandsâ€ť and then I wrote it â€“ or rather, as I was about to go to bed, I roughed out a few lines, jotted them down and returned to finish the poem the next day.
These are always images that are numinous and resonant for me.
So, other poets â€“ do you experience something similar?