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…).
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?