Now, I know what some of you are saying. “But Karly, I can’t even read poetry, let alone write it.” or “I can enjoy reading poems, but there is no way I could write one. It won’t be any good.”
You might be right--the poem you pen might not be very good. But I didn’t entitle this post: “You Should Write a Good Poem” rather, I specifically called it “You Should Write A Poem.”
Let us bust one myth right now: writers don’t write amazingly all the time. Not everything that flows from the fingertips of a writer is gorgeous and publishable. Frankly, some of it is downright terrible. Cheesy. Cliche. Resembles a worn-out washrag in quality. What is important is that this terrible writing, this garbage writing, is as important to the writing process as the brilliant and beautiful phrases which burst like light through a dusty room of forgotten furniture.
I admit, if I wrote down more poems, I would have more good poems. Not because every poem would be great, but I would be doing the work of “writing out the garbage” and chipping away at a block of stone in the hopes it becomes a sculpture. I would be honing my wordsmithery, my art.
Robert Frost, a personal favorite among poets, said something I have found quite important to my writing and my art. He shares his claim that “a poem is never a put -up job, so to speak. It begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness. It is never a thought to begin with. It finds the thought and the thought finds the words.”
A poem, and all creating for that matter, starts with a feeling that has no words. It can be great creative practice to try and put words to something that has no dictionary entry, no synonym or denotation. Poetry is really just giving names to feelings and happenings--names that are long and multi-worded because of the complexity of what is being named. A poem is a pointing finger, a directional arrow that a poet aims in the hope that a reader might follow and understand in a mysterious way. Something complex is never easy to explain in simple terms. It takes practice and trial and error to put the unutterable into words.
Those words might be a bit mysterious, and the meaning might be difficult to extract. That is good. Should complex things be easy to understand? Isn't that what art is for? To try and understand the deep and difficult?
Trying to write a poem is really just like creating any other work of art--but the medium is words. Trying to create with a different medium, in a different genre, is a great way to work those creative muscles. You might not be a poet, but writing a poem could shed new light on another creative endeavor.
Is there a creative project you are stuck on? Write about that feeling. Write about being stuck. Write about what you want it to be. Write about what it could be.
Practice the mystery. When a feeling comes over you, put it into words. Describe where you were, what you were thinking. Then leave it. You could come back if you want or just leave it forever. Spring is a time full of mystery and beauty, a harvest for the creative mind.
If you don't even know where to start, try these steps to get you going (this is by no means the ONE way to write a poem, but it might help those who are less comfortable wordsmithing):
1-think about something you do not understand, or a project that pulls at you, but you don't know how to go on. Jot down some notes about what is difficult or challenging.
2-choose an image to anchor your thoughts to. Brainstorm some words that go with that image.
3-now write as though you are talking to another person, but the other person is actually yourself.
Here is what I jotted down, unedited, unrevised. Just pointing to a lump in my throat.
How do plants grow?
I mean, I know there is science,
there are cells,
reactions and such,
but at the heart of the idea
that a cold, brown, oblong seed could
know that it should break open
and reach up toward the warm soil
and break through?
that will always, always,
be a miracle.
I would love to read your poetic ponderings, so post below. Be a bit brave!