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:
“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,
Brighter than many ever see.
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.
Hi Gina. Thanks for hosting. I strive to listen to my poetic hum everyday. Sometimes I don’t get the connection with my poetic self but I do try.
welcome Grace ! tat poetic hum can sometimes gets drowned out by the all the noise daily life makes, I admire how you strive to listen to it, you never know when it will surprise you!
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Good evening Gina! Good evening everyone! being retired, I see myself as just a writer, although I do volunteer at the library and local schools. But that doesn’t drone, it’s separate from my writing life. It’s my past, my family and friends that drone in my head and my poetry.
welcome Kim , happy to see you here! there are things we can so easily separate from our lives, like slicing it away so cleanly, and that seems to work well for you, I love to read that your family is the hum that’s strong now, not many can boast that, family relationships are so very precious.
Hi Gina and All. Will have to ponder this one a bit…
welcome Jade! ponder away and may I serve you something warm or cold as you do?
Gina, do you any Baileys behind the bar? If so, a Baileys on the rocks please.
awesome Jade! that is my favourite drink! and yes I have lots of ice! coming right up just for you! Enjoy as you pen your verse!
Thank you very much, Gina. Ahhh just right.
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Hello Gina, I do have my work every day, and of course I cannot avoid feeling the hum of deadlines and numbers all the day. Or maybe even the physics behind it… I will need to write something… maybe funny.
Hello Bjorn, something funny sounds pretty cool, if our work can do that we can tolerate it better on the hard days. There is much in my work that inspires me, too much sometimes and it can get overwhelming. Humour in physics could be a lovely new genre!
Björn Rudberg (brudberg) said:
Humor in physics exists… but alas only the physicists laugh
I know right, setting up a water phantom can be quite hilarious or even the absurdity of calibrating diodes for 3 hours straight, moments like that I tell myself I need to go out more!
Charmed Chaos said:
Bjorn- I admire the fact you can do what you do and still write creatively. In my former position, where I was crunching numbers and leading a team, I found it very draining to my creativity. Of course, I did use creativity in solving problems, but for me that was just getting the job done that I had to do. Kudos for you to be able to maintain both. My brain is not wired like that, I guess.
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Well, this is a fascinating prompt. I think it’s hard to separate out the two (and more) aspects of myself. I write a lot about my experience of family and relationships. I make a conscious effort not to write explicitly about my work, but I’m sure it’s there, humming away underneath.
Welcome Sarah, so lovely to see you here today! Similar to you, a lot that happens in my work day influences my thoughts and flows into my writing, many times I have to be careful I don’t misinterpret those hums, these undercurrents from secular life have a strong impact on our psyche
Thank you for hosting Gina. I am 72 and now retired, so much of my day can be focued on writing. On good days, when my health is up, and family is well, perhaps I am enjoying my grandson – my thoughts and writing are light. On bad days, when health struggles flare, be it my heart, diabetes, or neuropathy, my thoughts are frequently heavy, and my writing is often darker. Sad memories drive me to the dark side. So the primary hum, currently in the background of my life, I ould say is my health. Now, when I was part of the George Lucas Lucasfilm group, I flew throughout the U.S., so I was frequently living in hotels. My position was demanding, so to relieve the high pressure, and missing my famly, I escaped into writing at night tryin to get to sleep, in a strange bed. During those years, I guess the hum for me then was escape? But ever since I was 16, I have written because I have had little choice. So I guess my overlying hum is compulsion. For most of my life, when asked why I write, my answer is – sanity.
I totally admire and salute you Rob, a demanding career that left little time for family and self, yet the poetic drone never wavered, writing as a means to escape, sounds so much like the masters of old who wrote to drown out the noise and regain sanity. and at the end create timeless writing and poetry. Compulsion is a strong hum, it is steady and sincere, the need for truth to be told. Thank you for joining in this prompt.
Frank Hubeny said:
Thanks for hosting, Gina! Although I’m retired there is always stuff to do that seems like a distraction from other stuff I put on my procrastination list. Getting things off my procrastination list brings a feeling of accomplishment and a realization it didn’t matter if any of it got done or not.
Welcome Frank and thank you for joining in the prompt this week. Your list sounds long and varied! distraction from procrastination sounds such a dilemma of a life well lived to me. those that did not get done give you feul for another day. your response in the comments was itself quite poetic to me.
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Jane Dougherty said:
I’ve posted a poem, Gina, but I don’t think I’ve got the hum thing straight. I can’t imagine it, so I’m guessing it isn’t there. The words and the stories are, all the time, whispering or acting. I just write down what I see, and when I’m not in a position to write, they still whisper and nag until I get home and write them down.
welcome Jane and thank you for participating. I get mixed signals and jumbled up melodies very often so I wrote about the musical hats that taunt me. no matter how you see it, you do have a lot of clarity in your writing, I enjoy your vivid descriptions and dry humour when your drone reaches fever pitch!
Jane Dougherty said:
It’s probably a question of wording. I have so many ‘projects’ on the go at once that my attention has to be forced away from the imaginary. There are so many different stories. Maybe that’s my humming background, the voices of characters.
Greetings to all and thank you Grace for opening the pub for me, it is very early in Malaysia, I have made my coffee but feel I need something stronger, the poetry trail looks to be a very interesting indeed as the humming comes in from all corners of the world! Take a moment to listen to what makes you write, meanwhile savour a drink or two as you lean against the bar in familiar company and maybe welcome someone new to dVerse. I will be in and out of the poetry trail today and am really excited to read all the amazing poetry.
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V.J. Knutson said:
Greetings all. I’ve borrowed from my archives for this one. Hope that’s okay.
welcome V.J – I am happy to see you on the poetry trail, one from the archives sounds excellent, heading over to read in a few.
V.J. Knutson said:
Always so gracious, Gina.
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Charmed Chaos said:
Hello Gina and fellow poets- this is one I will ponder. I no longer have a job, other than taking care of my home, my family, and of course writing. I do know when I am stuck on the right words or thoughts in my writing, I will walk away from it and go do the dishes or work in the garden. At some point, those very acts push me over the bridge I couldn’t seem to cross.
Welcome Linda! everyday menial jobs can create amazing poetry, to me the simple acts of an ordinary day have a lot of magic in it. I like to read how your poetic hum is not confined to a job or family, and that is is vibrant in every corner fo your life. there is a lot to be appreciated from the mindless task, it frees the mind to explore deeper thoughts, well said Linda.
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Beverly, I was unable to comment on your page (I updated firefox and things have been kittywumpus ever since.) I see, 24 years later, you’re still you. Great poem.
D. Avery @shiftnshake said:
Hello all. Gina, thank you for the fine prompt. I’m not quite sure I followed it but I went where it led. Unfortunately I have to get back to work!
hello and welcome! i have just been to read your poem and am pleased how it led you! most creative and blending in past and present poetic hums. alas i too now have to get ready for work! have a lovely day
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Hi Gina and all…
What a thought-provoking prompt! I would have to say that my poetic hum is an unusual feeling that I am supposed to share something important in this world, especially regarding humanity. I am so fascinated by human behaviour, the way people act individually and influenced by a group. Words have so much impact and I want to leave this world knowing I moved someone with my words. With that said, I will have think on this one a bit!!
thank you Mish, this poetic hum has been nagging at me for awhile now and I am glad it creates waves through the poetry community here. you put your feelings into words very eloquently and touch a nerve, I salute that, it is being true to yourself and your purpose, I don’t think many of us reach this ultimate state. I look forward to reading your poem.
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Frank J. Tassone said:
Good Evening, Poets! Thanks, Gina, for this deep prompt! 🙂 Now, how about a bottle of Burgundy! 😉
excellent choice Frank, I favour a Malbec myself, one coming up as you visit the poetry trail.
Frank J. Tassone said:
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Being a retired person, my hum is a little different from those who are working a job and writing at the same time. My poem looks at background noise and what brings me inspiration.
how interesting Dwight, I did wonder about those retired or in self employment and you just answered my query!
It is a great place to be in life.
and i wish you all the best too
Ali Grimshaw said:
Gina, I love the idea of listening inward to my poetic hum. Thank you for this inspirational thought and for the poems you shared tonight. My day is at a close but I have another chance to write some poetry tomorrow.
Hello Ali, so happy to have you here! May the thoughts carry to dreamland and inspire your poetry. Those were some of my favourite poems and poets, taking the music they hear and writing about life. I look forward to your poetry Ali!
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Love the theme, so happy to join in!
It was such a lovely surprise to see you pop in here and your poem was stunning Elizabeth
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Charmed Chaos said:
Adding my thoughts today!
and they were so beautiful, thank you for participating Linda
Charmed Chaos said:
My pleasure, always.
I missed the Linky but I did write a new poem for it.
Missed you all! ❤
I wrote this last night and I’m just linking up. I’ll be around to read .
Can someone remove my first link? Thank you
ok it is done
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I am running really fast just to stay in one place this week, so I haven’t done any reading or commenting – or even replying to comments on my post. I’m so sorry. I feel like I’m being really unsupportive. Normal service should resume next week!!!
Hello! Take your time Sarah, some days are just so full and time really runs away without us realising it. Poetry trail always here. Take care of yourself! So nice to have you drop in to say hi to all of us!
Jane Swanson said:
Missed the post by 28 minutes. Your prompt has made me more aware. Thanks
sorry about that Jane, would love to read your thoughts, Open Link Night is open and Kim is hosting today, maybe you can link up there for the poets to see and read your poem? Best wishes, Gina
Hmmm, missed the linky, pingback doesn’t seem to have taken but here it is at any rate
Fab poetry everybody!
I am sorry you missed this link, but today Kim is hosting Open Link night, maybe you can link up there so the poets will see and read your poem. Best wishes, Gina. thank you for participating!
I will do that thank you. 🙂
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