There is no one place. For me, a poem must be stolen, in lines or fragments, from time and space promised to some other task, from overheard or half-remembered language, history, and myth. So I have tried the study, where I tend to sit tracing the grain of the oak desk, or the lakeshore, where I watch the waves arrive in their hundreds. When I go anywhere with the intent to write a poem there I stake out only failure.
Instead, I drive. I get myself lost if I can, and sometimes I can scratch out the lines and fragments that eventually become my poems.
I do not recommend this method. I can only pledge that I have become adept at writing legibly without looking away from the road, and that I prefer those stretches where mine is the only vehicle in sight. I follow rivers sometimes, as the road and the water align, then cross and depart, our separate courses bound elsewhere. I want the slow slopes of these glacial hills and even the industrial decay, each with their elemental scars. My conscious focus on the immediate route frees the more mysterious engines of the mind to wander. So I drive, and I look and listen, and allow for the banks and grades of landscape. Then, if I’m lucky, I can steal into those places beyond the power of the conscious will. Maybe a word comes to the tip of my tongue.
The traveler always occupies a place between and among places. I drive because I like this sense of betweenness, as I like the space between the unconscious and what I think I’m thinking about. A poem, after all, may seem just beyond its author’s will, but the more accurate geography is that a poem moves between its author and its reader, between language and the rest of the world, the wonder at what’s passed and the mystery of what’s ahead.
Dave Lucas is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Michigan and the author of Weather, a book of poems. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio. His poem “Meditation at Five Islands” was published in the September/October 2012 issue of Orion.