With only three poems left to write in this month of National Poetry Writing, I wish to take a breath in order to reflect on the experience.
When first it was proposed in one of the WordPress blogs that such a task be undertaken, I was pleased to see the parameters with which the challenge was posited: the point of the writing being in the task itself and not some polished, final draft to be presented each day. In fact, those who had never produced poetry before were encouraged to “give it a go” in the spirit of the thing, the fact that those who love to write owe it to words (and themselves) to also give poetry a chance.
Poetry is a highly misunderstood craft. Some think that just because a poem does not sound like a greeting card, with sounds that are the same ending each line a a pre-determined pattern, then that poem does not “rhyme,” that it is, in fact, not a poem at all. Others think that poems are merely a means for those “needing attention” to bare their souls, so to speak, to pour out on the page in the most appalling drivel the deepest secrets, the lies they tell themselves, or to mete out justice like a speaker on a soap box, pounding home the point beyond the hearers’ willingness to listen.
Some poetry is guilty of these impertinences, but not all poetry. Good poetry, really good poetry, pays as much attention to rhythm and line breaks and rhyme as any Shakespearean sonnet. Poets are masters of the minute. We take the smallest of things, notice the dust bunnies in the corners, and magnify them to reflect the truth, exhibit our humanness, make our readers ask why.
Because we work to say the most with as few as words as possible, for the poet each word counts to the utmost. “Use the right word,” Mark Twain wrote, “not its second cousin.” For the true poet, the right word is always hanging just out of reach, like the proverbial carrot. We are never satisfied, always ready to scratch out the second cousin when the right word comes along, even in our copy of our published works, reading in front of a live audience. Posting a poem each day that had had no time to “cure” in my mind, which was most assuredly filled with second cousins, was only accomplished on my poet’s part because I had accepted the premise that we were writing a poem a day in honor of poetry and to experience poetry in a new way. I look forward to taking the 30 poems that resulted from this April and seeing eventually what I might produce from them.
In trying to say the most about the state of being human by means of focusing my readers into the pinpoint of light at which I have shown my magnifying glass, you will have noticed in my poems this April a number of situations in which I have no personal experience. The only autobiographical sense to my poetry is what is given to all true writing: as my writing mentor, Dr. Walt McDonald put it, “I have survived childhood.” That is not to say that I had an unfortunate childhood. Actually, it was quite a blessed one. Still, it was childhood, and the process of passing from innocence into the knowledge of adulthood is a tricky and painful one that teaches us many lessons and gives us even more stories.
I have appreciated the readers who took time to let me know that they have liked my poetry. It has given me a bit of a boost, actually. It is always better to feel you are writing to someone and not just flinging words into the dark. If you found anything of beauty in what you read, I credit the grace of God and pray that I have illuminated Him according to His plan for the words He gives me. If what you read was disjointed or clumsy, I credit it to my own stubborn tendency to try standing on my own, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Poets may look at the world and words from smaller and more stilted angles when compared to other writers, but we, too, are human, offering what is most dear to us, our words, with every stanza we place on the otherwise empty, cold page.