BECALMED–when Poet’s can’t write poetry

 Becalmed – writer’s block, lost one’s muse, creative inertia.


Blank screen staring back

wondering if any black

will grace white again

 Poem by Davy Doran – Inside the mind of DavyD



A Poet becalmed, It happens to us all at some point. We find ourselves staring at a blank page, nothing happening, wondering what’s gone wrong. It can lead to frustration and we wonder if it will ever return. These episodes can last days, weeks, months but do return. Sometimes when we get stuck on a theme or subject I feel it is, in a sense, also a form of being becalmed. The Poet should be able to ‘see’ everything and then convey what he sees poetically, as French novelist Gustave Flaubert said

There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.

However, we are often drawn to familiar subjects because we find them easy. By this I mean ‘easy to access’ emotionally. We all have a high degree of what is now termed emotional intelligence, the ability to empathise, feel for others, so we know we can do a good piece on say romance or bereavement. In doing so, perhaps we should guard against complacency, be aware of the temptation to just get a piece written. We should use the familiar subject to open the door again but then explore behind it in depth and raise the bar, strive for perfection.

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar” . Shelly

But then again if we need to access deep emotions to open the doors of creativity is there not an argument that the subject chooses us. Is it not better to write 10 pieces on love, that we are pleased with and that reach others than 20 mediocre fillers, on many subjects, that do not leave the Poet proud and satiated.

Perhaps the answer lies in developing an ever greater ability to empathise thus building a wider range of these easy access subjects.

Of course there are many such subjects that are often overlooked, which immediately provide us with opportunities to find inspiration. Other art forms, paintings, music for example. We all have a favourite song, print, photo that we love, that therefore can be accessed easily. Another way is by the recall of peak experiences from our past, this has the advantage of also lifting one’s mood, further breaking the block.

I find reading my work aloud helps a great deal when trying to break free from being becalmed, the rhythm and flow are more apparent, I get a better feel for word meaning and placement. I also feel it’s pointless to try create when I’m becalmed, I just leave it until the creative winds return.

Why does this happen ? It is the nature of the beast, personally I go through cycles of elevated and depressed mood, interestingly it is while transitioning between these two states that I feel most creative.We have many outside influences to cope with, modern life is stressful ! Fatigue, both physical and mental, commitments to work, family and friends, the list is endless. Sometimes I personally just lose interest. We must simply accept it’s part of being a Poet.

A few final thoughts that may help if becalmed by self doubt. Poetry is a noble pursuit, it is in my opinion the only Art that requires a significant amount of intellect as well as imagination to both create ‘and’ appreciate it. That is why most homes contain a collection of music, fiction & non fiction and some wall art but very few have any poetry. We have been given a gift very few will understand, a gift we must share.

Below are a couple of poems, recently posted separately, presented again, together this time on the subject of being becalmed, on the off chance they may provide inspiration.



8 thoughts on “BECALMED–when Poet’s can’t write poetry

  1. A very thought provoking article Nigel and thank you so much for using my poem to introduce the subject. I like your use of the term becalmed as opposed to writer’s or poet’s block as I feel the writing block term creates a bit of a myth. Most writers have the ability to write something. The issue, I feel, is around an acceptance around what has been written. I think a lot of this is linked to the problem solving nature of the brain and its liking for the path of least resistance. You outline this with reference to writing on subjects familiar to us. I think one of the best cures for becalming is being part of this writing community as articles like these and the quality of writing never fail to shift the grey matter. A great post Nigel and my mind has gone into overdrive.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. ‘Space’ is a great lead-in to this wonderful article. And a very timely article. I’ve been becalmed more often than not lately. The frustration, wondering what’s happened and if the words will return are all real emotions that plague the becalmed poet. Spending too much time with those thoughts/emotions only seem to compound the issue, though. I suppose we have to know when to step away from it, take a break in whatever way works for us, to refill that well. For me, that’s music, reading other poetry or fiction, spending time in nature.
    I love the idea of writing about past peak experiences. It reminds me of the quote about tasting life twice.
    I like your point about writing 10 poems we’re pleased with rather than 20 fillers. Creative productivity doesn’t equal successful output. Cranking out fillers just for the sake of filling space and not giving our all, whatever the subject may be, doesn’t necessarily make them good. Maybe it doesn’t make them bad either, but overall what would have been produced that the poet won’t immediately trash? I’d love to be able to write multiple poems a day, but I know it’s not me, and not likely to happen.
    Poetry is a gift we must share, indeed. Thank you for such an inspiring article, Nige, and for the gift of your poetry that consistently ignites imagination and emotion in wondrous ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nigel, your post is beautiful and inspiring. Very much so. From the wonderful quotes by Flaubert and Shelly to your own deep and quiet observation of poetry.
    I never really thought of what poetry requires, it just happened like a spring flood.

    To create truly we need intelligence, didn’t think of this but see your point although I feel it goes for beautiful music, painting ……. Good poetry isn’t easy and I still hope my tools will be honed.
    Thank you for this post

    Liked by 1 person

      1. O.k. Nigel, you got a point there.😊 . That could be why there are fewer poetry books on the shelves.
        Could it be that music is appreciated on different levels. There are musicians who think in music the way we do in poetry. It speaks the truth and their emotions. Could the audience appreciate at different levels?
        Sorry, getting long winded here. 😉🦋

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes I think we do listen and appreciate music on different levels but there is a minimum level of intellect required and it’s, for me, higher in poetry than other arts. However you’ve hit on a valid point Miriam and that is within say music I use no intellect to appreciate a Beatles pop song but certainly use some listening to Chopin’s nocturnes.

        Liked by 1 person

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