The Will and the Inspiration

Back in my grad school days, old Jim McAuley in one of our workshops said that there were two kinds of poets, the poets of the Will and the poets of Inspiration.  In the former, the poet took a poem in his/her hands and squished it, pulled it, beat it into the desired shape.  In the other, the poet rode along, letting the poem take him/her wherever it make take him/her.  Even earlier, in my first workshop ever (as an undergrad), Naomi Shihab Nye said there weren’t bad poets but there could be bad poems.

As the years have gone, I’m less inclined to think that there are poets of the Will or poets of Inspiration, but more poems of the Will and poems of Inspiration and a poet can choose whichever strategy to use depending upon the circumstance.  Being open to the circumstance allows greater options.  A poem of the Will can be manipulated more heavily but shouldn’t be forced.  A poem of Inspiration can be spontaneous and free but so loose that its fully unhinged.  The extremes are less effective.  Readers won’t know where you’re going and will fill in the blanks with whatever random things are around.  Most poets don’t write to be that incomprehensible (there are times for that, but not always).  This is just a bit of artistic philosophy here.

And since I’m pontificating, the same principle applies to randori.  There are parts of a randori where a nage can impose his/her will upon all the uke, and there are times where the nage is riding the motion of the uke, letting them go by and hit each other, run madly in circles unable to actually grab or strike uke.  Sometimes a randori is almost one or the other, but most of the time there’s a mix.  There’s usually more of the latter in a more experienced practitioner and more of the former in a shodan test where the nage doesn’t quite know how to ride the wave yet.

In both cases, poems and randori, the poet/nage, when fully engaged and has a fully activated flow of energy, can move freely between the Will and Inspiration.  And from this art is created.

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