How does a poem start? Sometimes a line or two come almost out of nowhere and start the process off. Sometimes as we've seen there's a particular stimulus: a challenge, a homage to another poem and so on. More often, a poem will start with rough notes, jottings, thoughts, bits and pieces - quite like other kinds of writing in fact.
I thought I would try to see how the process worked in a bit more detail because, for once, I'd kept notes I'd jotted down while visiting a sculpture garden a few weeks ago. It was an amazing experience and I wanted to capture it in words somehow.
So these are the jottings - a bit neater than my notebook but otherwise just as they occurred:
story tree / lichen on boulders / metal toupee for a geisha / lily lamp bowing / gamelan music from oriental pool / bridges,stone, moss-steps / water still water flowing / weir pond lake brook rivulet / willow acer whimsy and wit / worth all the indoor galleries / surf the air in stainless steel / hard corners making flowing body shapes / galss wood aluminium stone / so sensuous it seems soft to the touch / a fairytale cottage / a poem by Plath / I want my words to be more transparent / and green / sculptured green from hellibores to willow / oak to / stippled in with thalia(?) / bluebells, anemone, periwinkle / it's a gallery, a shop / must be hard to say goodbye to some of these pieces / are the lilies laughing? / sculpture outdoors - can't be named and tamed like it can indoors / trees speak for themselves / wild tamed?
You can see there's a mixture of observation (both simple lists and some little images) and reflection. Jot it all down is my advice. This is your sand, your cement, your ballast. Pile it up.