Thursday, October 15, 2009

Get a Big Head

From Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink:

"We make connections much more quickly with pairs of ideas that are already related in our minds than we do between pairs of ideas that are unfamiliar to us.”

It is in the unfamiliar connections that much poetry thrives, especially the poetry that is contemporary, not-so-formal.  This is what we learn in workshops and is both the good and the bad of workshops.  The good is that we learn not to bore the reader with old stuff.  The bad is that we get boring if connecting unfamiliar ideas becomes a game rather than the pursuit of truth that art should be engaged in.

I would like to focus on the connecting of unfamiliar ideas; or rather the unfamiliar connecting of ideas.  I think Gladwell mis-states his case.  The ideas are familiar, their connection is not.  For the poet, the idea and the connections leading to it are both unfamiliar.  Further, the poet begins with the familiar and by way of new connections brings us to a freshness that is both unfamiliar and still rings as true to life.  I think this is Gladwell’s point in that the psychological tests he cites reveal truths about ourselves that are surprising because they are hidden until the tests reveal them.  Poetry does the same thing.

I see, surprisingly, that I am again treading in that territory where business and art may bump.  For all his pomp, Gladwell gives little artistic circumstance and the feeling he conveys is a little too pop and businessman-worthy.  Yet, as with Michael Michalko in Thinkertoys, there is a crossover value to the poet in his business applications, his non-art-focused analyses.

When we write as poets we are not as far from using the creative tools of business people as we might think and vice-versa.  Our whole brains have both halves and we should learn from each other.  It is in making new connections that our brains literally grow.  This is a physical, chemical process that somehow gets into the non-physical realm of ideas.  (I love the mystery of it.)

New connections are not only interesting but they lead us to make other newer connections and our intelligence (of all types) grows.

So, go get a big head.

So long for now.

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