Anatomy of a poem: As a young English major, the story of Samuel Taylor Coleridge writing "Kubla Kahn" was hugely compelling. In the throes of opium-induced sleep, the poem--as its subhead "Or, a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment." expresses--came to him, essentially complete, in a dream. Writing could be so easy, apparently! But I quickly came to know, it usually doesn't work like that. My friend Kemi just unearthed from her files a nine-year old bit of wonderful literary journalism by Walt Harrington. In it, he intimately traces the development of a poem by one-time poet laureate Rita Dove, from a line jotted in a notebook in 1980--"Bed, where are you flying to?"--to a fully formed, exactingly crafted work of art some 15 years later. It's a disarmingly honest portrait of a poet's mind--and the creative process--showing Dove searching for the magic in writing through grueling work: "I'm looking for an image as wild and apt, as wonderfully penetrating yet impenetrable, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez': '...and death began to flow through his bones like a river of ashes,'" she wrote in her journal. "If I could catch a fish like that, I'd be ready to die. No, not really. But the contentment would be immense and would last my entire life."

Download a pdf of Harrington's "The Shape of Her Dreaming," then read the final version of Dove's "Sic itur ad astra --This is the way to the stars".

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