“Shut your eyes and I’ll say a word. Open your eyes and write down what you saw.”
If I say “justice,” you may see a judge in a courtroom. This is the mind’s “translation” of an idea, an abstract concept to a mental picture, an image. The mind does this naturally.
- Love: hearts, a loved one’s face
- Death: coffin, grave, tombstone
- Self: mirror, photo, guitar case
- Soul: votive candle, Black-Eyed Peas, apple core
Be honest about what you see. Don’t worry if you see a Brussels sprout when I say “self” — your mind is telling you something. It is making a connection, which may not be readily apparent to you.
There is no such thing as a non sequitor the mind always has logic; it might not be obvious logic, but the mind has its reasons for connecting two seemingly unlike notions.
Let’s track the process a little bit. If I say “self” and you see a Brussels sprout, continue to interrogate that image and write down the next image it inspires, and the next. You may find that you are “tracking: the ignition of a poem — let’s say you see a hand picking up the Brussels sprout, or a toy next to it. You recognize the hand as yours, your hand as a child, you begin to enlarge the frame, you see it’s you as a baby eating Brussels sprouts for the first time, conscious of being a separate (perhaps suffering!) being. That’s OK, too, but keep the record, write down these signals from the unconscious.
Writing is an intuitive process; we must trust our intuition.
Here is a list of “abstractions” in four groups to enable a solo poet to play a kind of translation “solitaire.”
- Rage, Order, Justice, Common
- Solitude, Ecstasy, Evil, Gratitude
- Mercy, Pain, Hunger, God
- Peace, War, History, Angel
The idea is investigation: follow the thread back to the literal referent.
Give yourself five minutes. Pick a word, at first glance, from each group, then write down all the non sequitor images you get for each one.
See where this takes you. See what connections occur among the groups.
Look at what you’ve written and circle words that seem most vivid or evocative, that seem to reverberate with intention.
Take another five minutes. Try these words in lines.
Experiment; allow your intuition to lead you. Don’t frighten yourself: trust what comes up.
If you want to try a kind of solitaire, put each word on a card and deal your own groups. You could use all the listed words in a kind of nonassociative narrative – place one list over another, try to connect these dissimilar progressions.