Poet Robert Desnos claimed to be among the best at automatic writing.
Past Puritan contributor Martin Balgach discusses his poem from Issue 12: Winter 2011—and using automatic writing to craft an edgy aesthetic.
“Thrill Wanting Wormhole” was written during my second semester of MFA work in the Vermont College program. It was an experimental, unabashed time for my writing. I was reading everyone from stark, emotive poets like Anna Swir to more playful poets such as Russell Edson, and I was honing in on the notion that automatic writing can pay off if you go back into the work with a scrutinizing eye. Even though I was obsessed with the lucidity of the Eastern European poets, I also wanted to mine an edgier, nosier aesthetic as well.
I was working with Rick Jackson, and he encouraged my surreal inclinations while demanding rhetorical coherence. Rick forced me to look at the moving parts of the poem, especially the wild imagery, to ensure that the impulses connected in discernible ways. I consider “Thrill Wanting Wormhole” a tipping point of sorts, as I was pushing barriers while grounding the poem in an approachable context. The poem was at first uninhibited, then heavily revised, and this treatment led to the framing of the offbeat images in an approachable context. I have since applied this ethos to many of my poems—especially my prose poems that tend to need structural attention to avoid the nonsensical.
Most of my writing follows associative chaos in an effort to create readable poems that nonetheless remain on the outskirts of exactitude. But I don’t ever want my poems to be off putting, obfuscating, or inaccessible. However, the poem needs to be true to its instinct, and for me, that commitment tends to have a surreal twinge that I’m always trying to nurture—and control.
Martin Balgach’s writing and criticism has appeared or is forthcoming in Bitter Oleander, Cream City Review, The Dirty Napkin, Fogged Clarity, Many Mountains Moving, Opium Magazine, Rain Taxi, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from Vermont College and he works for a publishing company in Boulder, Colorado.