To Write: To Redfine

Clarity is a good thing; clarity does not mean over-simplicity, does not even mean in that pejorative sense, accessible. The most difficult of poems can by utterly crystalline (and should be). By etymology, the word’s earliest senses were in the range of brilliance and splendor. The conditions which determine clarity are relative to the piece, but it generally means, I’ll venture, that faith is kept to the desire which motivated or catalysed the writing; however accomplished, that vision is realized. I am always telling students that the one initial and maybe most important thing they must do is to forego fixed notions of what a poem is—or any other form for that matter—and remain open to possibility. Be willing to move the nets, so to speak, or consider any number of things a helpful restraint. I came across two redefinitions of writing today, no number of which is ultimately sufficient.

Jason Fried:

Since copywriting is interface design, you can do an awful lot of great design in a text editor. Don’t worry about where things will go, or how they will fit. Worry about explaining it clearly and then build the rest of the interface around that explanation.

And A.R. Ammons, from “A Poem is a Walk”

Only by accepting the uncertainty of the whole can we free ourselves to the reconciliation that is the poem, both at the subconscious level of feeling and the conscious level of art.

Writing as interface design? The poem as a reconciliation? Sure. Every poet understands the work as being pressured by several kinds of design; the designer knows better than anyone the complex of conjunctions and compromises at the heart of solving the problem at hand.
This is elemental and obvious to any kind of problem solving: you must, as Rilke said, inhabit questions you are in no hurry to answer. But they must be the right questions if they are to help see you through to not only what is new but what is also, by glint of its clarity, right.