I recently held a conversation with a friend of mine, a conversation of sorts that was conducted via email. It was an unusual but nonetheless quite satisfying way to exchange ideas and comments.
Usually an exchange like that would take place face to face over a coffee or other beverage. Certainly it often takes place by way of the telephone. (I’m not familiar enough with instant messaging or texting to consider them.) I do know that it is an alternative to exchanging letters by post.
I personally prefer the email exchange, especially over the telephone conversation. It gives me, and the person on the other end of the “conversation,” time that does not seem available on the phone. On the phone a question or comment seems to demand an instant response; there is nothing more uncomfortable on the phone that silence. (“Are you there? Hello! Hello? Are you still there?”) I don’t know about others, but I like to think about what has been said to me, what and how I will respond. I don’t need an inordinate amount of time; ten or fifteen seconds will do to marshal my thoughts and words. However, for most others this seems a lifetime longer than they’re willing to give.
I have several acquaintances who carry this into their personal conversations. If you want to say anything, you have to interrupt them in the split second they use to take a breath. If you happen to refer to something they said much earlier, that point seems to have been forgotten in favor of what’s said “now.” The torrent is more important than the content. How can you exchange ideas and information without a dialogue?
So, I prefer email. I can think, order my thoughts, decide how to present them without being expected to do so instantly.
How does this connect to poetry? It has given me insight into how I write a poem. I think, order my thoughts, decide how to present them. And it all takes time. I can’t remember a poem that sprang fully formed into my consciousness; they have all needed some deliberate thought, shaping, other touches. In some ways, a poem becomes a conversation with myself.
That feels true, like a proper analogy. Inside my head I talk to myself. Some of those conversations are exciting, some are humdrum. Some drift away before they’re finished, some perhaps would have been better left unstarted.
And there is no telephone link between my heart and my head.