“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.” ~ Khalil Gibran.
I remember writing stories as a child, whether it was school assigned or spontaneous I don’t recall. It was not until I was in my thirties that I decided I wanted to write, and went out and found a used electric typewriter (Google that, if you’ve never heard of it!), and entertained myself by writing my novel. That novel reappeared some years ago through my blog and shared on Facebook, but it had to be rewritten considerably as the world had changed so much in the intervening decades.
Poetry was another thing. It was a private way of expressing emotion, not for public consumption. Occasionally I may have been tempted to contribute one to a school magazine, but I was always scared that there is thin line between beautiful rhymes and bad attempts at poetry. Once, after my boyfriend broke up with me without overt reason I retreated to my bedroom, obviously in pain. A house guest we had at the time observed my reddened eyes and said, to my surprise, ‘I supposed you’re going to write poetry!’ Not sure how he knew. It was years before that boyfriend admitted he couldn’t handle being in an interracial relationship. He tried to end our marriage for the same reason later, as he became more involved with a group of revolutionary activists who were striving for change, and justice, and equal rights. Many years later it was I who wanted out of the marriage, for reasons totally unrelated to race.
I have always admired the poet’s ability to inspire, to capture, to condense, to crystalize thoughts into a few short lines, packing a powerful punch to the gut. A poem can shock, can amuse, can titillate the senses, can make you cry. The poets that I admire do all this and more, almost effortlessly, it would seem. Yet is it? They say that Dylan Thomas left notebooks of his poems written and rewritten in many different versions before he was finally satisfied with his product. He not only chose his words for their meaning but also their sound, using assonance and alliteration to have words tripping over the tongue like a babbling brook. Other classical poets follow rules about rhyme and meter, each line a certain number of syllables, or each verse a prescribed number of lines. Or each verse beginning and ending with the same line.
Haiku is of course one way to play with poetry, efficiently illustrating your story in three short lines, the first and third with five syllables, and the second with seven. There is a Welsh version (the Englynion) which is far more complicated. Recently I have tried to meet the challenge of a month of poetry, initiated by a friend who has a Facebook group called ‘V.I. Write Now’. Each day she puts out a trigger, asking members to write a poem on a theme, or a style, and I have tried to rise to the task. But besides the poem, it is intriguing how many thoughts come rolling down memory lane.
It has been enlightening to see what a good teacher can do (she is a professor of creative writing, so she has many tricks up her sleeve) in stimulating thought. And some of them bring back memories so raw, it seems like yesterday. I found that I had to be editing my thoughts, some events too personal to share even when disguised in verse. For those who read patois, perhaps you would enjoy one effort that was to start or end with a saying, a proverb. I couldn’t resist:
Lay down wid dog yu get up wid fleas
Neva stop me yet
Dog was so damn sexy
I was willing to tek mi chance.
Long cut draw sweat
Short cut draw blood
Ole people chat too much
See who ago reach fuss.
Ole fyah stick easy fi catch
Mi betta watch out den
Cos every time mi see you
Mi feel hot.
Even if, like me, you still wonder whether your efforts are worth sharing, there is something very therapeutic about the act of writing, whether in verse or prose. Journalling is recommended for anyone who is going through emotional trauma, or anxiety, or depression, as a way to alleviate the pressure of things unspoken, pain unacknowledged, emotions not understood. These words don’t have to be read by anyone, in fact you may not even want to read them yourself! The difference between journalling and writing poetry (poemizing?) is that the latter is more deliberate, more mindful. It requires choosing words for effect; arranging thoughts in a rhythmic mode (even when not rhyming), and so it is almost an act of meditation.
This Friday morning I hope you have a friend who can stimulate your creative juices, can harness your flow. If you have your own talent, I hope you can be that trigger for others to unleash their own potential. You never know what you can do until you try.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!