thumbnail of Where minds meet; Creativity
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
When I think of my street robbery. And the neighbor's front porch has turned blubbery and a flexible pariah like my right eye is cutting away plastic forever. Is that all I know is that the end of the poem. That's all John. Closeup view of the fantastic world in just 29 words where our minds meet a series of explorations and human communication conducted by professors John freind and Arnold Nelson of the Department of English Western Michigan University where minds meet is produced and recorded by WMU K.. Under a grant from the National Association of educational broadcasters in a shrinking world where minds meet in words or not at all man's speech is his most decisive act. These discussions explore this world of speech. With a topic of horror today is beyond the horizon creativity. Here are professors frind and analysis.
This is John freind and this is Donald Nelson. Suppose I read them a poem John and I to expand on it. Our topic today is creativity by which we mean the process that results in such a thing as a poem. Do these twenty nine words constitute a poem properly speaking. Do they result from creativity. I think that my street is turned rubbery and the neighbor's front porch has turned blubbery and a flexible pariah in a stretchy black Mariah is carting away plastic shrubbery. Well it has the rhyme and rhythm of a limerick which suggests a humorous comment on the world but you don't find it really funny. No far from it. It's a terrifying world one I've never seen before and one I don't want to live in certainly a world dissolving before my eyes. It's full of familiar objects. A street. My neighbor's front porch shrubbery. But what's happening to them is horrible death and disintegration. That's an odd theme for a limerick isn't it. A shocking. I think that part of the effect it has on me. As if a
comedian Red Skelton say were suddenly to do a pantomime of a man dying of some horrible disease the poem has a ghastly irony. Then it is a poem properly speaking. Yes I think so. It compresses quite remarkably a great many images into a recognizable poetic form as if its creator had some kind of control over what he was doing. And it directs these images at the reader at me in such a way that I feel them. It communicates It's not like the formless generation of a person talking in his sleep then no. Well I certainly agree with you that creativity must be channeled through the confines of some medium. The painters canvas the musical scale and so on with poetry it's the conventions of verse form that help the poet to communicate with his audience. The matter of form isn't enough in itself of course. For me the most important element in creativity the thing that sets a poem apart from advertising copy say is what the Creator contributes from his unique personality his self
his well his soul the created object expresses the unique purpose of the artist or poet he says something he wants to say again. He's in control of the thing that communicates in the poem comes from him not from a sponsor not from some impersonal right. Again I'd agree and I'd add a third element of the created object comes from the self. It's communicated through a conventional form. And finally it's the kind of thing that makes some appeal to another person to an audience. Yes it's significant meaningful and has a human dimension so that it helps an audience find some expression of themselves. Yes but you seem to be describing great works of art here. Paradise Lost or Handel's Messiah. No I don't mean that only great masterpieces are created. That little poem I think represents genuine creativity on the basis of our definition and even less artful products seem to spring from the same kind of activity I suppose every healthy human being and gauges in the process of creation.
Well parents of kindergartners are constantly being made proud of their children's creative achievements. And when college students are occasionally forced humanities course. Paint a picture or write a poem. They often surprise themselves. Yes if they can enter into the job with an air of come what may. If they have any idea that swims into their consciousness to be considered They seldom fail to meet at least original and that's an essential part of creativity in the terms of our last program than the created object is characterized by a high degree of information. It contains surprises for us so that we save it that it's original and interesting if it's hackneyed and dull. When I would say it's too redundant and this would apply only to ANY created object whether in the arts or the sciences the creative scientists themselves physicists and mathematicians for example often describe the process of scientific discovery in terms that apply perfectly to creativity in the arts. And the process seems equally mysterious their creativity is after all the most
complex form of communication the form hardest to observe because all we have to look at ordinarily is the finished product as we can ask the creator how he accomplished what he did. But often he can only shrug his shoulders and say that it just came to him. Well we've tried to get a little closer to the process by setting up an experimental situation with the cooperation of two of our colleagues. The odd little poem about the robbery world is one result. It's odd because of the experiment we gave our subjects to words and ask them to write limericks using those words for rhymes The words were shrubbery and pariah. Come on when he has this assignment requires considerable ingenuity at least because the form first of all is very rigid and these two words of course are not especially compatible. Well looked at simply as a puzzle solving this thing is something like Houdini escaping from the sealed vault to be creative as well as merely clever here is like asking Houdini to dance a ballet with no escaping from the vault. Well here's the way our friend Phil Dent Infeld solved the problem
as respectable shrubbery men are not worried about the handsome high flyer. Let the press stay patient without it. Well it's a Limerick and Phil is out of that sealed vault. Yes John suppose we suspend judgment on the quality of the performance and let our audience in on the process which is what we're interested in as we try to demonstrate on our last programme. Some kinds of thinking are verbal like this and if the thinker can verbalize along while he's thinking we have a chance to listen in on the process. So we were able to record Phil's musings as he composed that limerick. We left him alone in his desk and turned on the tape recorder. And this kind of experiment may be unique. Scholars have available poets first drafts and various revisions and these materials through a great deal of light on the process of poetic creation. But the oral record is much more detailed. Phil made a half hour tape while writing his memory the first part of that tape as best summarized by saying that Phil played around with the two words we gave him. Creation
has an active process and Phil had to toss those words around to get something moving. He made free associations with all sorts of ideas and shrubbery for examples and just a blubbery and blubbery suggested blueberry pie which incidentally he discarded as I was interested in the origin of the phrase handsome high flyers. When the word fly off first came to him through free association with Pariah it was simply one of several equally and promising alternatives. Here's how it came to end. Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah. Got to fly.
My. Well it sounds as if illness during things up on the bases of trying anything once the way small children sometimes were jigsaw puzzles. Yes it sounds that way like a kind of mechanical manipulation of symbols putting words in a kaleidoscope and turning it just to see what might happen. And now though about five minutes later Phil remembered that particular turn of the kaleidoscope and seized on the word fly as the word he needed. Here's the way he got the third line of his limerick. When British respect shrubbery and all blubbery. For himself. But for. But for. Robbery. Or and or library.
Right. But I have some highflying. Oh yeah. It sounds as if Phil discovered something which strangely enough he already had. Yes. Oh yeah that he said. Yes but Phil's experience indicate is that the human mind is capable of taking something at random and by turning it over and over and over and looking at it in comparison with a great many other things. Find a pattern of meaning for it. He didn't make something out of nothing. He drew upon a seemingly limitless reservoir within himself most of which he didn't know he had. Yes he dredged it up and then exerted conscious control over it. Well our other subject Jon Woods demonstrated the same thing but his verbalizing revealed a somewhat different approach. Yes and he produced a completely different kind of poem as we've already heard the one we commented on earlier was his second attempt on his first rhyme he started out in much the same way that Philip dead but John seem to settle on a main idea much more quickly.
Here's John Wood's tackle that and Freddy and pariah. Oh so you want to possible rhyme Schreiber a robbery obvious robbery robbery and the next one is not is true robbery slobbery blubbery blubbery. Labrie and robbery didn't have enough in common to work together a robbery and blubbery robbery and another thing entirely shrubbery robbery and blunder a pariah pariah. Blackmore. Take a flyer take his class to the pawn take a flyer at a black. Pride. Denial denial. Diet. Pie.
Pariah on Mariah. Blackmore write. A grim shrubbery shrubbery robbery and blubbery save shrubbery to the end robbery and blobby a great deal like shrubbery should have a shock value of property used when finding his one finding his attitude robbery and finding his. Sister in Law robbery and finding the world it was all robbery. I'll try that he says as if he just build himself a rickety ladder and is going to take a chance on climbing it. Yes he lines up all the rhyming words in order and grabs the first line out of the air or decides to go ahead with it. He seems confident though being able to find his way through to the last line. Well maybe it's the confidence of an old hand at this kind of thing. After all they'd publish one book of poems at
the time the deaths at Paragon Indiana and he was working on a second. So when he said I'll try that. He seemed to want to was going to breeze right through a little finger exercise not taking it too seriously. Yes he sounds quite playful about that first line. He's relaxed in the choices he makes seem dependent entirely on adhering to the form and shocking the reader like Phil. He doesn't seem to be concerned about expressing himself. Let's pick him up again to the point where he said he would drive when finding his sister in law a robbery finding his sister in law robbery. And finding his sister in law robbery and his and his aunt once removed.
I'd gone blubbery and had gone robbery gone blubbery he he hailed a black were. Chauffeured by a pariah. Chauffeured and I was chauffeured by a pariah. And told him to follow the shrubbery very modern when finding his sister in law robbery and his hand once removed it gone blubbery he
hailed a black chauffeur and told him to follow the shrubbery which leads to life. Well that was too easy. Robbery blubbery. Not so good apparently no. He pushed through to the last line with relative ease but as he said it was too easy. I could understand what he meant when I compared that effort with his second poem. This one doesn't hang together very well for me. I'd say he found it too easy because he hadn't the challenge himself. As it turned out of course John didn't leave it at that need took another crack at it in a way his second attempt as a revision on the first. Here's the way he started to work rubbery blubber a shrubbery bobbery. How about. I think I think that my ears have gone rubbery.
I think that I think that the stream is off. I think that the world is all rubbery. I think that my street has turned rubbery now he has his first line and there are some very interesting differences. First of all he speaks in the first person. I think that my street has turned rubbery. Yes as far as the words go at least he's more closely involved this time. Well I was interested in the three alternative choices he lined up three rubbery things his ears his street and his world. He lists them in expanding order from his senses to his neighborhood to the universe and he chooses the neighborhood. My street robbery world occurred to him in the first poem and he rejected there too in favor of a robbery sister in law. There seems to be a great deal of purposeful sifting of choices that he doesn't verbalize for us. Yes she may not be
conscious. Well as we know the poem presents a picture of a rubbery world but I suppose he rejected the word world because he wanted to construct a world in the poem rather than merely state that it exists. Well here's how he continued until the poem was finished. I think that my street just turned robbery and me and your neighbor doing base the neighbor's front porch and the neighbor's front porch and blubbery and the neighbors and the neighbor's front porch has turned rubbery blubbery turned blubbery now when Mariah
and inflexible pariah and flexible. And the lengthening Black Mariah and a flexible pariah. In a stretchy black Mariah. I should save stretches for the last stretch of the shrubbery stretchable shrubbery. I couldn't be set anyway and flexible provide a stretchy black mare I want to accent too many in that line and a stretchy black nylon. Halves.
Is cutting away is. Carting away. The shrubbery. I think that my street robbery and the neighbor's front porch has turned blubbery and a flexible pariah carting away plastic robbery. Well that poem hangs together like a string of beads five images of rubbery notes that add up to a picture of a distorted world. Looking back now I can see that the basic idea of this poem was in his mind as he started working on that first one. Yes and the word that seemed to crystallize things for him was rubbery which he got from our word shrubbery. He called it an obvious rhyme. So the theme of the poem came to him by the way of a purely accidental sound. He seemed to take that second effort a little more seriously. He entered into it with more of his self more of his own purposes. But just a second. I think you're making a statement based on some evidence our audience hasn't had a chance
to hear we have a retrospective view of the experiment with John was three years after he made that recording we played it for him and asked for his reactions. The episode seemed to come back to him quite vividly. One thing we were interested in was a comparison of the Limerick with some things in his recently published book of poems called on the morning of color. Here's what he said when we asked him what he thought about that limerick. There's a possibility there's a view of the world it's uncomfortable to think that you know I'm not saying all the moral standards are flexible you know with your surroundings certainly there's some doubt that things are going to remain the same much longer. I had that a pathetic idea it's not a limerick idea I don't think particularly I notice some things I was working through in this book because it is a very good let's face it.
Oh well because I have certain limitations if you recall the experiment I was given certain words they worked with and in a tight little form like a limerick there's no chance to do work using for my purposes I had to work pretty hard to suit your purposes and to make anything reasonable out of it. True limited form. You can dance to your purposes here. Yes I think so. You noticed I was trying to do something and I said that I thought the world was all rubbery and I saw there wasn't much hope in that but I got interested in the problem so I brought in the street MR Well because that's sort of a framework of reference within which I could consider images I was situation which led to my neighbor and I was going to bring in a
string bass. But that's awful. I suspect that when John talked about his own purposes he meant purposes of technique. He's not referring to the purposes of himself as a complete human being. But I agree with your generalization that he put more of themselves into that second attempt. He said he got interested in it. It was a poetic idea. So in gauge his total personality or you could say that his personality seized on the idea of a robbery world and then worried it into a poetic notion. Interesting enough to engage his craftsmanship Yes. A poet wouldn't waste his craftsmanship on something that seemed trivial to him. It seems to me that when John talks about technique he has in mind deeper significances which he takes for granted. Here's what he said for instance when I asked him why he didn't use the alliteration plastic pariah. When I was another thing working against that there was the echo of the Flexible Flyer. You know the old saw. Because sled that people used to have. That was our next. Hour.
And he wondered whether when a flyer that was in your preceding mom used to fly out or at least thought about the outline he wanted a flexible flyer that's I thought where came from I just realized this now they weren't laughing at you did you misread it. Well I mean right now I'm sure that I chose it for its Resnick purposes out of the past much of possible choices and I get it. There are there is such a thing for us as plastic shrubbery for funerals. He chose plastic he says because of its appropriate rhythm. But apparently it appealed to him because it enabled him to express in one flash of imagery a deeply felt attitude toward the world an attitude that he takes for granted as you sing. Yes it's an assumption embedded in his personality. He takes it for granted until he's made a poem out of it. He doesn't probably can't express such ideas and feelings except through his craftsmanship as a poet. Your interview with John Woods he compared the limerick with a poem in his book pointing out the
superiority of the published verse what he said gave me some insight into his creative impulse why he writes poems in a limerick I would say considering that as a lyric that is not a stanza written I say that is because in this play I presented a situation but I turn on it. It goes into the interior and I am trying to but I really am left in a ready world on the other. Well can you draw any conclusions now John from what we have heard of the creative processes of Phil Dannenfelser and John Woods. Yes several things appear to be important. We referred to the sifting of choices. But before the mind can sift anything it must get something moving. There seems to be relatively little conscious control here any stimulus deliberately imposed or arriving by accident maistres something up to the surface of the mind. Well the poet himself doesn't know what might come up but he can make conscious choices after that. Yes he can choose deliberately among alternatives but he still may not know why he chooses what he
does. John Woods talked about certain things giving the poem class or having shock value but as verbalizing didn't get into his motives for preferring one classy word over an equally classy one. Well John and Phil of course couldn't pursue such motives in that experiment and still get on with writing the poem. We can surely assume now that the quite single minded pursuit of the theme as we saw in John Wooden springs from deeply embedded motives inseparable from the poet's personality from his communication with the world. Yes and I'd add that not only does the poem spring unpredictably from his personality and worldview but also that it tries to express it and to express it is in a real sense to create it for the poet and also for his audience. This is ultimately what creativity amounts to in poetry. The making of a new self and a new world out of the old. Symbolically Yes making a new world is the ultimate creative act whether through poetry or mathematics. By that standard John Woods's rubbery world is of course found wanting. As he said it it left him in a rubbery world where there was no place for
man in the longer poem which appears in his book The man's senses leave him and he inhabits a fragmentary world. But then finally man triumphs in the new world is created out of the ruins of the old. Here's John Woods to read that poem when Sensis fled. A fitting conclusion I think to this program on creativity and also to this series of programmes on human communication for the last word we yield to the poet I am custody and of close things even 100 trees of blood to leave and faces come upon me suddenly. I am a startled man and half the town and half my yard is blunder land. First I lost the violets then the grass and now the red and rend white fence. Farewell the bright decay of oak the crewcut water the blackest sizes of the night farewell the visual today the wind began to lag and all its freight of season drained
into the neighbor trees and all the smoking side burns streets dropped ashes on the muted playground. Let lightning slam the screen I cry let neighbors war shop of cats tear metal or stone me was shouting but the grating Thunderhead suspends its buzzing nest beneath my bow while the audible. Touch tell me what the world displays. For now I reign behind my eyes. If you would hurt me gather close for in the last deceptions skin I must be broken by a kiss. Love is a cave of scrolls and I have thrown away all spectacles. I roll horizons like a hoop among the muffler trees and see the nerve ends crackling in the dark there while
Where minds meet
Producing Organization
Western Michigan University
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-9s1kn00m).
Beyond the Horizon: Creativity
Discussions explore world of speech, conducted by Professors John Freund and Arnold Nelson of Western Michigan University
Social Issues
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Host: Freund, John
Host: Nelson, Arnold
Producing Organization: Western Michigan University
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 63-4-13 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:20
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Where minds meet; Creativity,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 21, 2021,
MLA: “Where minds meet; Creativity.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <>.
APA: Where minds meet; Creativity. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from