Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Blind Drawing vs Blind Poetry

I recently read an article in the New York Times Magazine describing the author’s experience with blind contour drawing. The process involves looking at the subject and drawing its contours without looking at the paper. Instead of carefully rendered replicas, the drawer ends up with fascinating interpretations of what s/he is looking at. They may not resemble exactly the person or object, but they will exude personality and offer another dimension to what is being viewed.

This process fascinates me, but I realize I already have been doing something similar in certain poems I write that don’t portray external images as our eye perceives them. Instead—especially if I let myself enter a trance-like state—an inner eye takes over, and I’m surprised by the results. Of course, I’m not the only poet that practices blind poetry. Many of us do it without realizing the parallel with blind drawing, giving the reader a view that s/he otherwise would miss.

Here is an example from the recent issue of American Poetry Review:

In a poem by Elizabeth Robinson entitled “[Young man feeding pigeons as they rest on his hand and wrist],” the last two lines read “The arm motionless as feathers lift a sleeve. / Fine, white scratches on the wrist and hand.”

I love the various ways these lines can be read. The arm can be viewed as being light as feathers. Or it could be that feathers actually lift a sleeve. And fine could be a comment on the previous line, or it could modify “white scratches.” It also could be a value judgment of the white scratches or a commentary on how the scratches appear. And there’s an unspoken sense that the pigeons from the title may actually have left scratches on the man’s wrist and hand. Lots of ambiguity and a fresh take on a common scene.

Do you have any examples of blind poetry!


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