Notes on Digging by Annabelle Bonebrake

Digging is a process of uncovering, getting past everyday consciousness into the movements of poetry. In everyday life, we live in a series of procedures and beliefs that keep us afloat and sane. This excellent collaboration between the brain and social norms, most of the time, allows us to eat breakfast and go to work without having a total meltdown at the uncertainty of our own meaning and existence. In engaging with art and in poetry, though, the everyday functions of consciousness can be limiting. Similar to flow states that so many artists and craftsfolk chase, digging is a process of finding balance between effort and ease in the depths of the mind. I find that when I get lost in the craft, when I put all my energy into digging, I have better access to the intuition of a poem. I am not producing words, but collaborating with them. The discovery is uncertain. It’s edgy, more jazz than classical. It’s risky, too. Sometimes digging yields nothing, or I unearth burdensome treasures. Most often, more questions arise from the dirt. Charles Simic calls this being “in the midst”:

To be “capable of being in uncertainties” is to be literally in the midst. The poet is in the

midst. The poem too, is in the midst, a kind of magnet for complex historical,

literary, and psychological forces, as well as a way of maintaining oneself in the face of

that multiplicity. (343)

Therefore, digging must be part of writing: picking up the pen or the taking to the keyboard, exiting the everyday and doing the work.

“Exchange is creation,’ writes Muriel Rukeyser, “In poetry the exchange is one of energy. Human energy is transferred, and from the poem it reaches the reader. Human energy, which is consciousness, the capacity to produce change in existing conditions” (195) Like all things, a poem cannot exist independently. It is in an ongoing relationship, seeking communication and unity. Poems know this. That is their great intuition. It is up to poets to do the work of unearthing, to find out what we already know, and to yoke the pluralistic self to the multiplicitous world.

Rukeyser, Muriel. from The Life of Poetry, “A Lightning Flash”. Twentieth-Century

American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry, by Dana Gioia et al., McGraw-Hill, 2004,


Simic, Charles. “Negative Capability and Its Children .” Twentieth-Century American Poetics:

Poets on the Art of Poetry, by Dana Gioia et al., McGraw-Hill, 2004, p. 343.

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