Where do ideas come from?

One area of linguistics, Psycholinguistics, concerns itself with how the mind creates the matter which produces ideas. ¬†Ideas are a precursor to the words which express them — a Chinese speaker and an English speaker can view a work of art or a car accident and have the same “idea,” but the words which express it are incomprehensible to everyone but those who know the linguistic conventions of the speaker.

The former American poet laureate, Donald Hall, shed some light on where ideas come from in his interview with Terry Gross on her radio program Fresh Air February 8, 2012.  The entire interview can be found at: http://www.npr.org/2012/02/08/146348759/donald-hall-a-poets-view-out-the-window


Hall says he’s now writing prose instead of poetry. That, too, is a function of growing older.

“I felt poetry slipping away,” he says. “I’m not sure why. It was palpable. I’ve always felt that poetry was particularly erotic, more than prose was. … I say that you read poems not with your eyes and not with your ears, but with your mouth. You taste it. This part of poetry, which is essential to me, seems to have diminished gradually until finally I really don’t have it.”

Hall says he also has trouble thinking of new subject matter.

“It used to be that phrases and lines would come into my head, often many of them in a period of five days or a week, and maybe I didn’t know what I was talking about, but the words had a kind of heaviness or deliciousness to them,” he says. “That’s decreased. It’s become less frequent until finally over the last few years, there’s been none of that.”

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