Poetry, like most creative arts, demands a synthesis of all kinds of thinking, both in the act of creation and in the reading and interpretation of art. Vendler (2004:3) recognizes the tendency to value analytic thinking at the expense of the creative :
‘The Process of Thinking has usually been defined as a chain of argument, explanation,
logical induction or deduction. ’
Emily Dickinson (2000:94) attacks this hierarchy of thought when she writes that:
‘We shall find the cube of the rainbow- / Of that, there is no doubt: /But the arc of a lover’s conjecture / Eludes the finding out.’
Dickinson defines the voice of deduction and scientific thinking through the image of a cube, but she suggests that such elements of human life and thinking are not easily contained. By using the lexis of mathematics, cube, arc, conjecture, the poet reveals the poverty of such language when applied to a different kind of thinking, such as that which is concerned with the human heart. Such aspects of human life are most difficult to explore or define and perhaps need their own style of thinking, an approach which Dickinson calls ‘enchantment’ (2000: 35). She suggests that a book tells us:
‘your dreams were true. / He lived where dreams were born.
Thus, Dickinson sees the life of poetry as different from everyday life, but affirms that it should not be undervalued: its idiosyncrasies deal with a particular kind of truth or experience. This is an important part of creative thinking, recognised by Wallace Stevens (2000:59) when he writes that ‘what we see in the mind is as real to us as what we see by the eye’. This confirms the idea that creative thinking involves a type of imagining, which is a synthesis of the many thoughts in the human mind, but sometimes such thinking is hard to grasp or to put into words. The poet, according to Ted Hughes (2000:157), tries to hear and give voice to that ‘inaudible music’.
Deduction, logic and critical thinking all have a place in the lives of poets, but the process of thinking, involved in the writing of a poem, synthesises these characteristics of thought and brings something else to the mix. Oakeshott (1991:516) calls this ‘contemplative imagining’ and David Jones (1973:227) calls it ‘a journey’. Whatever metaphor is employed, there is agreement amongst poets that writing poetry demands specific approaches, which are recognisable as special kinds of thinking. As Vendler (2004:3) writes:
‘It is being directed, as a feat of ordered language, by something one can only call thought.’
The strategies, employed to structure this mode of thought, result in the creation of a poem.
Dickinson, E. (2000) Selected Poems, London: Heinemann.
Stevens, W (2000) ‘from Adagio’ pp.56-66 Edt.Herbert, Hollis. Strong Words, Northumberland: Bloodaxe.
Hughes, T. (1967) Poetry in the Making, London: Faber.
Oakeshott, M (1991) ‘The Voice of Poetry in the Conversation of Mankind’, Rationalism in politics and other essays. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund.
Vendler, H (2004) Poets Thinking, Harvard: Harvard