On Attention: A Poet Party Recap

May 1, 2011

At the Poet Party tonight, we discussed attention.

I thank Karen Maezen Miller for the inspiration behind this idea. “Attention” seems to be disappearing at an alarming rate. Have you been asked to “multitask” lately? The brain can’t pay attention to multiple things. It may seem you are—that your brain is—yet it isn’t. We all suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, and I do not mean the kind of you read about in the papers. We’re suffering from a deficit of attention directed at us, at our work, at our writing, at whatever we care about.

In case you were not able to join us at the Poet Party tonight on Twitter— or even if you were and like to read the transcript—here’s what we discussed tonight.

The Poet Party, by the way, takes place on Twitter. Use the hashtag #poetparty to follow the conversation at 9 pm ET on Sundays. Collin Kelley is my fellow host.

Once the introductions were completed and the Great Poetry Giveaway Winners Announced, I asked what people paid attention to today. Sundays always seem so good for paying attention.

QUESTION 1: What did you pay attention to today?

People paid attention to a dead snake, the wind, a boyfriend, Celebrity Apprentice, roller skating, a weeping willow tree, and Salt Hill Magazine to name a few. Here’s what else people gave their attention to today:

ericqweinstein
A1.2 I also paid attention to the new issue of Salt Hill: http://bit.ly/ePjOtG #poetparty
»
Tina Nguyen
A1 #poetparty I paid attention to my daughter’s fever rising and falling today. And the poetry I heard as we napped together.
»
Julie Carter
A1:I paid attention to nature upon seeing a dead snake. Also, I heard a lot of people giving compliments today.All great material! #poetparty
»
Collin Kelley
A1.5 Sadly, I’m having to pay attention to Celebrity Apprentice to recap for the magazine I edit. Sigh. #poetparty
»
ek_anderson E. Kristin Anderson
A1 I paid attention to the boyfriend, Law & Order reruns, and small press submissions. #poetparty
»
fullofstars
A1: Jellyfish, #leverage & a sestina. Two of those are related. #poetparty
1 hour ago
»
alotus_poetry
I paid attention to the strength of the wind today as I walked around my church. I had a rolled-out-of-bed look! #poetparty
1 hour ago
»
hosking
A1 – Art over at VASA my daughter was entered in the middle school category. Cyndy Carstens was guest speaker. #poetparty
1 hour ago
»
brooke_farmer @32poems A1 Small victories #poetparty
»
CollinKelley
A1. I paid attention to the corrections and rewrites on my second novel. #poetparty
»
rmfenwick
A1 The 5 poems I’m submitting to @robertleebrewer for the #aprpad. Sharpening up the month’s worth of poetry, too. #poetparty
»
briankspears
A1: I paid attention to the tightness in my chest from stress, and then to the Book Club chat with Dean Young I moderated #poetparty
»
spiderdreamz Victor Perrotti
the inside of the VA Beach Lighthouse #poetpart
»
Eric Weinstein
Game of Thrones; a new poem I’m working on; Call of Duty: Black Ops; the weather; the temperature in my apartment; and #poetparty.
1 hour ago

Throughout the conversation, people shared their views of attention and how it played into their poetry.

Attention can be affected by mood:

Mr. Enlightenment
kilowattpoet Mr. Enlightenment
your mood will dictate your poetry even when you dont want it to #poetparty
1 hour ago

Attention is editing:

E. Kristin Anderson
ek_anderson E. Kristin Anderson
Attention is editing, y’all. Paying attention to the first draft. Paying attention to word choice and line breaks. #poetparty


Attention can be reflection:

@AMYCHAMP Yes! We’re living in a world where things move too fast. Attention is a way for us to stop & reflect. #poetparty

Attention can be love:

32poems
QUESTION 3: Someone said “attention is love.” What are your questions about attention and poetry? #poetparty

AMYCHAMP
attention is the foundation of solid spiritual practice, and so it goes with writing. there are levels of attention… yes? #poetparty

Attention can take the form of professional eavesdropping:

brooke_farmer
@hosking I think of myself as a professional eavesdropper for this very reason. #poetparty

I have the same experience as Mr. Enlightenment:

Mr. Enlightenment
kilowattpoet
most of my ideas come when poetry is not my main point of attention #poetparty
»
32poems
A2: Attention plays into my work by coming up in odd ways…I can’t control what happens. #poetparty

Attention must happen to get beyond accuracy to the TRUTH.

Brian Spears
A2 Cont# I have to pay attention if I’m going to get beyond accuracy to truth. #poetparty

Brook Farmer wrote that the answer to paying attention in poetry is self evident. I agree and think that it can still be hard to get the point of attention in the first place. Many failed poems failed due to lack of attention.

brooke_farmer
@32poems A2 I feel like the answer is self evident almost. Can’t effectively write about something you aren’t paying attention to #poetparty

Attention affects writing:

hosking
A2paying attention to conversations can create some great jumping points for writing. You never know where great material will be #poetparty
»
Collin Kelley
A2. Listening to music I enjoy while I’m writing and editing makes me more relaxed and helps me focus my attention. #poetparty
»
TinaNguyen
A2 #poetparty If I don’t pay attention, there’s no poetry. Paying attention is the foundation.
»
ericqweinstein
A2: I try to attend to two things at once in my poems. I like the complexity it offers (in terms of emotions, images, &c). #poetparty

Richard points out how April poetry prompts helped him focus. I think the challenge of writing a poem a day encourages us to think more about what we’ll write next. Then, we start to see the world in a way that helps us make the human experience visible in words.

rmfenwick Richard Fenwick
A2 – Surprised: the poetry prompts for April really focused my attention extremely well. I was surprised. #poetparty

We thank @thethepoetry for the link to Donald Revell’s essay, “The Art of Attention.” http://j.mp/mq9uFe

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