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In September 2018, I bookmarked an article that fascinated me. It was titled:
Is it OK to be a writer and a __________? Written by Laurie Patton.

It was “an essay about continuous identity in a world which constantly asks us to align the self with its occupation.”

The writer asks us pertinent questions about the dual lives we lead, the writing life versus the non-creative writing occupation. She mentions famous poets and writers who lived “one identity at a time and also those who chose multiple identities” concurrently.

The part of the article that held my attention was the “tanpura principle in writing”. I quote her below:


image from amazon.com


The tanpura is a long-necked, lute-like instrument in Indian music that sustains the other instruments by providing a drone. Tanpura players do not provide their own melody, but pluck the instrument’s four strings in a continuous loop of rich tones, to provide a base from which the soloist can draw in singing or playing the raga melody.

The Tanpura Principle in writing is the idea that much of writing occurs while doing something else, because the base of poetic inspiration, the supporting drone, is always there…….. in poetry there was a kind of harmonic listening that could occur anywhere, and in any way.

There are times when we don’t hear the drone, because we are too tired or too overwhelmed with other emotional, spiritual or even logistical challenges to know it. But the point is not then to “cultivate inspiration,” rather, it is to remember that the drone is always there, perhaps even especially there, in the fatigue and frustration of our “other” work.”

She gives examples of poets who met the multiple identity challenge.

  • T.S. Eliot rejected a fund that his Bloomsbury friends set up for him, preferring a routine bureaucratic income and life at Lloyds’ Bank, and later at Faber, as more conducive to poetic work.
  • Wallace Stevens remained an insurance man his entire professional life.
  • Pablo Neruda served in the Chilean Foreign Service for most of his career.

We know from their published works how that drone not sung loud and melodic in their lives.

What is the poetic hum in your life? What hums in the background of your life that inspires you as you unconsciously listen while you work and live? Is the drone always there or do you have to cultivate the inspiration?

Some points to ponder in your poem:

  • should there be a clear line between your occupation and your creative writing?
  • do you have to make up your mind which one you want to be or can you do both things at once?
  • are you inspired by your “occupation” to write creatively?
  • can the frustration you feel in your “other work” (non-creative writing life) also be an inspiration to write?
  • does your current occupation limit your creative writing?
  • what is the drone that hums in your background that inspires your writing?


You were made to be yourselves.

You were made to enrich the world with a sound,

a tone, a shadow – Herman Hesse

I share with you some poems from poets who write listening to their poetic hum.

William Blake wrote of a simple event in childhood and inspired a novel decades later from his musings. Can you guess the title and author from his lines?

Nurse’s Song – William Blake (1757–1827)

When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
And everything else is still.

‘Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies.’

‘No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep;
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all cover’d with sheep.’

‘Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.’
The little ones leapèd and shoutèd and laugh’d
And all the hills echoèd.

Anna Akhmatova loved her homeland; her poetry reflects her fierce loyalty.

You Will Hear Thunder Anna Akhmatova

You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
when, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.

This poem from Langston Hughes really touched me, he wrote about the life of someone locked in darkness and silence, yet she inspired so many people with her courage, his poetic drone was the stories he read. I am sure you can guess who he gives tribute too!

SHE – by Langston Hughes

In the dark,
Found light
Brighter than many ever see.

Within herself,
Found loveliness,
Through the soul’s own mastery.
And now the world receives
From her dower:
The message of the strength
Of inner power.

So listen to your poetic hum this week, write a poem about it and share it with us.

To participate post your poem on your blog. Copy the link to the post and paste it in the Mister Linky below. Check out what others have written about the topic.

The pantoum poetry form is also still open to link up.