Finding Poetry: Opening up to something “Other”

This is poetry month.

Poetry and I have a long, complicated relationship.
Sometimes, I love it.
Often, I am confounded by it.
Many times, I am drawn to it.
Once and a while, I am intimidated by it.
Occasionally, I hate it.

I suppose that’s not true — it’s not often the poetry that I hate, it is what people do with it that gets to me: analysis that edges into pretentiousness, the sense that you have to be “in the know” in order to really understand what is being said.

In a recent post, P.L. Thomas notes:

“Poetry is not identifying iambic pentameter on a poetry test or discussing the nuances of enjambment in an analysis of a Dickinson poem.
Poems are not fodder for close reading.
Poetry is the ineluctable “Oh my heart” that comes from living fully in the moment, the moment that draws us to words as well as inspires us towards words.
We read a poem, we listen to a song, and our hearts rise out of our eyes as tears.
That is poetry.
Like the picture books of our childhood, poetry must be a part of our learning, essential to our school days — each poem an oasis of happiness that “machines will never be able to measure.”

This… this speaks to the heart of what I want poetry to be about.  I want it to be able to be a vehicle to speak to those things that I cannot speak to.  A way to capture dreams, without caging them in.

I am consistently confused by the fact that the one piece of published writing I have — like actual, professional, published writing, is a piece of poetry.  But then, I remind myself, that one of the only things that I have actually sent out in the past few years was that piece of poetry.

I don’t write much (probably a piece of the reason that the publishing of one of my poems is so surprising to me), but I am starting to think that perhaps I should try to write more (and now that the only other poem I’ve put out there for the world to see has been selected to be Freshly Pressed, I think I really do need to do more poetry… I can get the message, sometimes…).  Doing the challenge to write a poem made me realize how much I actually enjoy doing so (especially if I let myself break out of the rhyming structure that feels so constricting).  I like the freedom of open spaces — letting me break free from the expectations I hold when writing prose (not that I don’t break grammatical rules all the time in my writing but…).

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I feel like poetry allows me to connect more with the “dreamer” side of me — and that’s something I need to explore more, something I need to give the space and time it needs.

If I may step into my “theological” side for a moment… writing, for me, is a way of connection to something other.  Be it by living through the story that my character may have to tell, or exploring something about human nature in more detail, I am moving to a place outside of the normal way of being in the world.  Because of this, I have long considered writing to be one of my spiritual practices — even if what I am writing may not be at all spiritual.

This is even clearer within poetry.  In seminary, poetry was one of the most common types of writing I would come across.  Presented as meditations, used within classes, poetry gets to the heart of things — it steps between those “thin places,”  and can connect us with something outside of ourselves (or deep within ourselves) in ways that are unique.  Like music (and I do put the two together, often), it is a way to open ourselves up — to move beyond our normal confines and look at the world with different eyes.

And it can take a great many forms.

I wonder, does poetry speak to you?  If so, how?
Where do you find poetry in your life?

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10 thoughts on “Finding Poetry: Opening up to something “Other””

  1. I couldn’t agree with more the idea that poetry touches the spiritual “other”.

    I have this idea that poetry and music and art are all proof of the divine, that creating those things is the reason the thing that runs the Universe made humans. That’s our cog in the clockwork, so to speak.

    Poetry touches that place in my soul that I usually can’t get quiet enough to reach. All the buzz and the noise of daily worries gets in the way. But you have to go to a quiet place inside to experience poetry, rather than just reading the words, and I treasure that. The inherent quality of poetry that stills my mind and cuts through the distractions- that peace- is one of life’s greatest treasures.

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  2. “Poetry touches that place in my soul that I usually can’t get quiet enough to reach. All the buzz and the noise of daily worries gets in the way. But you have to go to a quiet place inside to experience poetry, rather than just reading the words, and I treasure that. The inherent quality of poetry that stills my mind and cuts through the distractions- that peace- is one of life’s greatest treasures.”
    I think that may be part of the challenge in poetry for me – I don’t often give myself the time and space to get to that quiet place. I was much better at it when I had dedicated time for just that (thank you Seminary!) but now I have to be more intentional to find that time.

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  3. Ah, this explains your comment back to me. 😉

    Firstly, do write more poetry. Have fun with it. Play! Capture emotion. Capture a moment. Do it for you — no one else even has to read it. That’s what writing poetry does for me. Captures moments and thoughts, and helps me get out of my own head. I write and read poetry simply because I cannot not write and read it.

    But, be warned. As poet Billy Collins writes “The Trouble with Poetry” is:

    that it encourages the writing of more poetry

    His poem can be found here:
    http://www.edutopia.org/trouble-poetry

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    1. Thank you for sharing that poem — it’s spectacular, and so very very true!
      And what you say, about reading and writing poetry because you “cannot not write and read it” also rings very true. I can feel it getting into my bones, just like my other forms of writing have, and know that I probably wont be able to escape it (not that I want to!)

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  4. Nice post – it’s interesting to hear how poetry is very different for lots of people. For me it has two forms. One is therapeutic – I do write poetry if I’ve had a bad day, or stressed about something. I guess that’s my version of some people’s diary writing and I think I find it therapeutic because poetry can have any form you like, so you can just write exactly what you feel. My other form of poetry is humour, and that’s the kind of poetry that I share with people, some on my blog, sometimes just emailing my mates. It is a nice quick distraction from my bigger writing projects!

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