I wish more poets would try working in the past tense. I am tired of reading poems that rely on startling metaphors and present-tense immediacy for most of their effect. It begins to feel very formulaic and unearned. How about some genuine insight once in a while?
But conditioned reflex comes to the rescue. She knows how to write a poem. She knows how to trawl for a metaphor, how to stitch lines together with assonance and consonance (and the occasional alliteration, not too much), she knows how to intertwine nature images with love-memories and transcendent ideas. So here is Listen, the first word, followed by a colon, herding the reader with an authoritative bark. Here is wind in the next line, another short-i sound, and then lent to tie the l’s and n’s and short e’s through three lines. Here is blue forgiving the encroaching purple, forgiveness is always good, and linen-clad dandelions whisper together, with that l- n-short-vowel combo again, and personifying nature’s voice is a reliable tactic. She makes the gesture of a surprising epithet; she makes the gesture of a truncated line; she pays witty homage to a better-known colleague’s best-known poem.
To me, the most telling thing about the writing process as depicted in Cohen’s story is its origin in impulse and distraction, rather than in true attention to something outside the writer.