The Creative Process

This was originally posted on 29th July 2011. I’m republishing it today as it seems to link in with several of the recent posts. The comments to this post are worth a read too.

He said
keep writing
your poetry
and I had
to smile
to myself.


Here is Basho talking about his passion for writing poetry.
In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind. This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over the others. Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind and another. At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry. The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs onto it more or less blindly.

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12 thoughts on “The Creative Process”

  1. You might say this about many of us, whether it’s computers, books, food, science, nihilism, flowers in the sky or whatever!

  2. Sums up why I make art. I feel complete when doing it, whether painting or sculpture though at the moment sculpture has the edge.

    I do it because I do and trying to analyse it or find reasons why is a waste of time.

    I really like your poetry, Rev. Mugo, it says so much in so few words.



  3. Norman for keeping on keeping on…keep going on. And as for poetry…well I can’t claim to write it even though some of you seem to think I do.

  4. Wonderful Basho. I had not seen it. Who is the translator? (or more direct what is the quote from?) The best description of the creative process I have ever come across.
    Also, very poignant comments from the funeral. Our condolences.

  5. Each day starts on waking – we have to do something. Better that there is joy in the doing. Joy in my experience comes when the doing has creative purpose, when ones talents / skills flow and the little self is lost, lost in something bigger than self. It’s just fun then.

  6. Dell! Thanks for leaving this comment. I will ask the person who sent me the quote if he has any ideas about translator of this Basho piece. I met a young man, first year at college, today who is a budding composer and musician. And another musician playing the harp at the tea after the Funeral for Iain. Music lifts the spirits, as you know. Play on Dell. So sorry not to have seen you and Rebecca at your home. Another year perhaps.

  7. Back from the Rockies and fresh from reading Rilke again…ahhh POETRY! This made me think especially of two things I read from Rilke recently. From “Letters to a Young Poet”: ‘…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way to the answer.’

    And from the “Book of Hours”:

    God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
    Then walks with us silently out of the night.

    These are the words we dimly hear:

    You, sent out beyond your recall,
    Go to the limits of your longing.
    Embody me.

    Flare up like flame
    And make big shadows I can move in.

    Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
    Just keep going. No feeling is final.
    Don’t let yourself lose me.

    Nearby is the country they call life.
    You will know it by its seriousness.

    Give me your hand.

    Somehow those hold good teaching for me at the moment.

  8. On Bash?.

    The text is from Bash?’s “The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel”, translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa. It’s in the Penguin Book “The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches” and is quoted in several places on the internet: I borrowed it from the blog Poemas del rio Wang.

    All are using the Nobuyuki Yuasa translation.

  9. Basho describes something other than Basho writing the poetry. He is the carrier of a gift and his smaller “I” has the mastery of expressing it. The creation and the expression are different but inter-dependent. Thinking on this, I was recently asked if I was a “producer” or “consumer”. An uncomfortable and pointed question.

    (My mastery of the comment system is similarly inept: should this bump to the top, apologies, it should be at the end!)

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