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This report is taken from PN Review 46, Volume 12 Number 2, November - December 1985.

How a Poem Originates Miodrag Pavlović

How does a poem begin is the question. As a poet, I am more interested in the question: when can we agree to say that a poem has actually begun? Can we proclaim as a poem the very first jottings, the first association of words which comes to us; there is a school of poetry which asserts that the first noting down of a poem is the purest expression of inspiration, which all further elaboration can only obscure, falsify, rationalize. Of others it could be said that they see the origin of a poem in fact as a process, from the first note to the last version of that poem up to the moment when the poet himself accepts that his poem is finished. What then should we consider as the origin of a poem, is it the first flood of images in the poet's consciousness, the first intangible quiverings of sensibility and emotion, or the more palpable process of work on a poem, its creative metamorphoses, the direction of its movement seen in the manuscript?

I do not believe that the number of poems which a poet can write is unlimited - it is not a question of the beginnings of each individual poem. Every poet has a number of his own fundamental answers, several of his own vibrations, a series of situations because of which it is his vocation to be a poet. For this reason, poets in their poems vary in their own several ...

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