As a writer, I used to re-use certain phrases in prose because I find think it's an apt phrase or there was no better way to catch it. Usually it happened in physical descriptions or settings. Lately, though, my prose has taken on a life of its own and I find myself in this zone in which the words almost happen to me, and then I look back over it and wonder, "Did *I* write that?"
If I am using images or phrases over again in my poetry, I am unaware of it. I think if I saw myself doing it, it would be after the fact, in a review of my work and I would berate myself for not finding something unique.
If I saw it in someone else's poetry though... that's harder. Poetry is so short, generally so concise, that if I were reading a body of work and kept coming across the same phrase, I would have to assume it is an attempt to get the reader to *see this point* in particular, whether it be intentional or unconscious. I dislike the assumption that because a poet writes about divorce, he/she *must* be getting a divorce. But perhaps a recurring phrase or image is something the writer hasn't dealt with, that they need to. Writing can also be meditative. We exorcise our demons this way. That whole concept of, say a word over and over and over and then you start to wonder if it's a real word? Address a demon over and over and over and... ? One can only hope it will go away.
[This message has been edited by Portia (edited 07-18-2000).]