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TokesPlace Presents:

Carol Beane’s Creative Process

21 Jan

In my former incarnation as a patent lawyer I was deeply involved as an observer, participant and catalyst in the creative process. For me the process comprises the following steps:

• Preparation,
• Incubation,
• Illumination and
• Implementation

The steps are seldom sequential. Each step informs the other steps. The steps are not necessarily categorized in the mind of the creator. Often implementation becomes preparation, and/or incubation and/or illumination for a subsequent project. The same can be said for each step of the process. Creators often loop back and forth between and through the steps. In fact there is no distinct demarcation between steps. One fades into the other. Understanding the process, especially how it is used by a particular creator, can enhance that creator’s creativity.

In a previous post I examined the creative process of visual artist Michael Platt. This post is about the creativity of poet Carol Beane.

In a future post I will examine the process in the context of the collaboration between Platt and Beane relative to their joint art book projects. Here is Carol reading some of her poetry before a rapt audience.

Carol has a PhD in Romance Languages. Currently she is Associate Professor of Modern Languages & Literature at Howard University. She is a born poet. However is only recently becoming comfortable with that mantle. She has been writing poetry since learning how to write. She was also a visual artist until about age 15. She says poetry was her way of journaling. She won The Larry Neal 2007 Award for adult Poetry.

transformer gallery characterizes her poetry as turning on history, memory and recollection—–uncovering the poems in the words that document the history of the collective experiences of the African Diaspora; discerning the poems in the routines of daily living; receiving the poems that dwell in personal circumstances.

Here are two examples of Carol’s poetic creativity:

Sorrow cuts
so finely
that at first
we do not feel
its edge;
we wait
for the joy
after sadness;
it is long
in coming
and we fear
that we will
have forgotten
its contours.

from artists’ book # 1 forgotten contours© 2001 by carol a. beane

When I read, and feel, the above poem I am reminded of the bitter sweetness of life. The scars that bitterness leave and the difficulties healing encounters. In other words, the blues.

transfixed with sunlight
amid green palm trees sated with rain,
you catch whispers and echoes
in the palms of your hands
and dance like water over stones;

from the bodies
sucked thin and dry
and the bones grown weary in pain
and the breath
that cannot return to air…

from artists’ book # 2: solitary mornings © carol a. beane 2006

This one eludes me. It reminds me a little of slippery dreams or memories that I cannot lock down.

During the interview I told Carol I did not get most poetry. She suggested I read it aloud. I have. My appreciation is greatly enhanced. An example of how a solution is so obvious. Carol’s advice should have been obvious. I appreciate music opera, jazz, blues and poetry readings because they are audible. Reading quietly is definitely not comparable. Reading aloud should have been obvious. Duh? Thanks Carol.

In earlier years Carol saw her poetry as a kind shorthand description of her feelings and experiences. She wrote then in the Japanese Haiku format. This format limits the poet to 3 lines having 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively. Often, when she reviews her past Haiku poems the experience that generated the poem is recreated in her psyche. Longer poems started to emerge about 10 or so years ago.

Generally Carol does not decide to write a poem. When something affects her very deeply a poem emerges. Environment is important. Maybe a word or an image, or an experience that she or someone else has and suddenly a phrase or a description comes and a poem is born. Sometimes when walking, the rhythm of walking brings a line and if it is still in her head when she gets home she records it. Sometimes she jots down notes about experiences, feelings and observations (preparation) and then puts them away (incubation). She returns to the notes later, sometime years later, to see whether a poem emerges (continuing preparation and incubation).

When the poem emerges quickly the last three steps of the creative process are compressed and the first step (preparation) comprises all her life experiences up to the birth of the poem.

On the other hand when the poem emerges over time after recording the initial idea or thought, incubation, illumination and implementation are more easily identified. These aspects of the process overlap and blend into each other. In all cases preparation seems to be wrapped up in Carol’s life experiences, up to the time the poem emerges. Thus preparation more or less permeates each of the other aspects of the process.

Carol’s creativity, in some aspects, reminds me of Andrew Wyeth who described his creative process as “…an enlightening, it’s a flash,” he said. “And then after you have that flash, of course comes the hard work of finally pulling it together and putting it down with as great simplicity as you can.”

Also there was Einstein who as a 16-year-old imagined riding alongside a light beam. A decade later E = MC2 emerged, where C is the speed of light. These vignettes of Wyeth and Einstein imply at least some steps of the creative process.

This is my view of Carol’s creative process.

Carol thanks for your time and tip on how to read poetry. I look forward to your feedback.

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