HEARING VOICES: IN XANADU DID KUBLA KHAN

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Submitted Date 06/25/2019
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Hearing Voices: In Xanadu Did Kubla Khan
Age 26, Apex, North Carolina, 1970
-- This is one poem, in an autobiographical series of poems, that I posted here at WriteSpike. Go to my stories section for others. They are in chronological order. --

When English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge woke one night he remembered a poem he had heard in his dreams and immediately wrote down his famous poem, Kubla Kahn, almost like dictation. Many of the lines in my poems in this autobiography at WriteSpike came to me like dictation, but then I had to work with them and tie them together to make a coherent work.

What that man creates by means of reason will pale before the art of inspired beings.
~ Plato ~

When I'm painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It's only after a get acquainted period that I see what I've been about. I've no fears about making changes for the painting has a life of its own.
~ Jackson Pollock ~

It was what an artist hopes for
a direct line
like a voice speaking to me
and I rushed to my typewriter
to transcribe it

word after word
I was hearing the story for the first time

it began:
SISTER:
He remained in the shrouded room.
Rags and dirty plates lay like shells across his bedside table.
From time to time we rolled him over and washed his bedpan out.
The blind-covered window webbed the room in silhouettes.
He took a long time to die.
(See the next poem for the full text that I heard in my mind.)

I typed as fast as I could
hoping to keep up with the dictation
in my head

and wondered how it would end

I have not had such a complete
transmission since
but often my poems start with a line
that comes to me

then having broken the ice
bits of phrases often follow

now forty years later
I see my work,
my inspiration and my muse
a bit differently
at one end of the spectrum is dictation
and at the other
the critical craft of writing

words often arrive like a voice
but I am not afraid to change them
after they appear on the screen
or cross out a sentence
or rethink an idea

I aim for
a gentle consciousness
one that has more to do with concentration
than a clear sense of direction
one that is about a give and take
of listening and shaping -
because often when I write
I may not know where a poem or an essay is going
so in a sense I both follow and lead

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  • Kiersten Felch 3 months, 2 weeks ago

    I love both the feeling of it flowing in the moment, and looking back at it later in two different lights!

    • Rick Doble 3 months, 2 weeks ago

      Kiersten: Ir was such an odd and unexpected experience which I have not had since in such a complete way.