Friday, January 29, 2016

Poetry Lessons

I started writing poetry when I was about 10 years old. What started out as the literary experimentations of a bookish little girl soon became one of my primary avenues of expression. Even though I've journaled most of my life, in some ways, poetry was more of an outlet. Writing poems was almost like writing in a secret code that only I could translate. If my journals were found and read by someone, all my junk, secrets, and feelings were exposed; if someone read my poetry, it might be embarrassing, but so much was metaphor. Everything was still safe and secret, even if the poetry itself was terrible (and much of it was). I think in many ways that made it the most honest expression I had. This month has really revived that mode of expression for me, and I think it will continue to carry even after January ends. I've written a lot--some pretty good, some terrible--but it's been a great month.  I've learned so much this month--and really over the years--from reading and writing poetry.

1// The profound is often in the simple. A glass of water can have more to say than the ocean, if you listen. 

2// You can't force inspiration, but you can do things that make inspiration more likely to occur. For me, this is being in nature, surrounding myself with beauty, reading (reading reading reading!), and looking through old photos or journals.

3// You have to know the rules to know how to break them. Even free verse--well, good free verse--has a degree of pattern and rhythm if you break it down and analyze it. I don't know if any poets actually do this--I think they just develop an ear for it, but either way, there is something to be said for structure.

4// Poems don't have to be meaningful to be good, and they don't have to be good to be meaningful. Billy Collins has this great poem about poetry students tying a poem to a chair and beating it with rubber hoses "to find out what it means." It's one of my very favorites.

5// You have to do the work. A friend of mine who's an author says that writing is equal parts inspiration and discipline. You have to write where the wind blows, but in order to do that, you have to show up to write to begin with. You won't be a good writer just because something happens to you every three years and you decide to write a poem about it. Practice and consistency are important.

Did you follow along with the poetry challenge? What things did you learn?

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