Why do we write poetry?
I write in a variety of forms. I wrote a journal for many years, I have written long and short stories. I have written non-fiction. And I have written poetry.
I am in a poetry space at the moment. I think in terms of poetry when I see an image or read a story that resonates with my own emotions. I think in rhythms and sometimes rhyme.
But, I wonder why we write poetry? What is it about poetry that suits one mood over fiction writing?
Is that it? That there is a true-ism about poetry – that it is real? That is certainly one of the reasons that Peter Sansom gives in his book Writing Poems. And to an extent I would agree. Poetry can be an emotional vomiting, a way of purging the gurgling, grumbling excesses that occur in our lives.
But it isn’t just that.
I see poetry as a photograph or a series of still shots compared to a story which is more video footage. Poetry is an image; sometimes stark, sometimes comic but one which we ‘look’ at and it makes us feel. It allows us to understand something that we did not before. It can remind us of something that we knew long ago, or make us look at something in a different way.
We might write for ourselves but should we write for others?
But there can be a difficulty in writing poetry and one I am sure that most of us have come across if we have shared poems. That the images that we understand, and the thoughts that we think do not translate themselves. I have read a lot of poetry and am just left puzzled. It may be bad poetry, it may be the work of literary genius. But sometimes, poetry just doesn’t hit the spot for me. I cannot translate the images that someone else has created.
Does that mean don’t bother?
Of course not. I have read horror, crime fiction and graphic novels but don’t read them now. I choose not to, it just isn’t something that particularly interests me. It doesn’t mean that it is not good fiction.
And poetry is similar. But perhaps it is more difficult. Poems tend not to come with the genre labels that we expect from fiction writers but once you know a poet, you generally know what you will get.
Since I began blogging not that long ago, I have read (and reread) a lot of poetry – yes, the greats, Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, the War Poets – but also, the bloggers’ poems. In fact, I have read more poetry recently than I have for a long time.
And I believe that blogging is good for poets. It is good for poems. It puts it out there in front of me and I choose not to ignore it. I can bump into new forms and old forms revisited. I can learn about new techniques and try a device or two that I have seen used in the work of others. I can become a critic for work I read but ultimately work that I choose to share; I can learn more about what I like and dislike. I can read and read and read a poem and it will shape the shadows of my day.
If you want other people to read your work, it is important that you are humble enough to read theirs!
Poetic versions of airport fiction
There is a host of evocative work on WordPress that should be published, known about, read, performed, consumed. But the general public, I believe is afraid of poetry. It is afraid of the depths you have to tread in order to ‘get into it’. Who wants to read a literary work when they are on the train home? And it is noisy and hot? Sometimes you want airport fiction; something easy on the cells!
That is partly why I sometimes write simple poems such as Dear Shed. They don’t all have to be complicated or so deep that you can get lost in the middle of a stanza. They can be simple.
But, simple they may be, but there still needs to be that sense of ‘show’ not ‘tell’ – the image that speaks a thousand words in just one or two. If I am to feel, I need to be able to understand what it is and an image is so much more powerful than a telling – to use a cliché, red roses for example, are a gift for a lover and a more poignant symbol than saying the words ‘I love you’ (in a poem, anyway!) If you saw Four Weddings and a Funeral some years ago, you may remember WH Auden’s poem read at the funeral. ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone….’ You can feel the sadness of someone who wants everything to stop and that is in the first line!
What are you working on at the moment? How do you feel your images will be received by your adoring masses? Put yourself in your reader’s position – do your images translate easily to someone who is not in your head?
Good luck, btw and happy writing today!
To read Peter Sansom Writing Poems, link on his name to redirect you.