Thursday, January 5, 2012

I Wish I Wrote Poetry

The first poem I read and 'got' was Keats' Autumn. I was young enough to be startled by my ability to grasp its meaning within meaning. I wondered, fleetingly, harrowingly, if I might possess something of the rhapsodist.

I tore off a few poems that I kept hidden at the back of a binder, which I carried with me always (in the loosest sense these could be called poems. In that they were short and had, if not rhyme or meter, at least emotional intent). I hugged them to my person, believing that they were made of my own dark matter. But when I went back and reread them, they were gibberish. Soggy and wrought.

I've shied away from writing poetry since. I doubt, with no measure of false humility, that I am clever enough for it.

Still, I have days I wish hard that I could write the stuff. That the thoughts bonking around my head could find their best exit inside a poem if only I could provide one. Not the thoughts so much as the feelings. That's the bit that clicked for me with Autumn. How the image of swirling leaves could make you press a hand to your throat, how the idea of approaching cold catches you short and makes you nod to yourself even though you've always told yourself that normal people don't stand around nodding to themselves about death.

I should be able to write poetry, don't you think? I'm a writer. I love sassy nouns, the back talking adjective, verbs that break off in the middle. Jukebox words that slide over one another, make you think there will be a crack up, a crash of meaning that veers off course just in time. Playing chicken on a too careful road. Those are the kinds of words I would use in any poem I might write. I think so. I'd make a bed for them, pick out their clothes for the next day, kiss them goodnight, and turn out the light. I'd let them hide out there in the darkness so like the unlit corner of a high school binder. And I'd wait a spell before checking on them again. To see what time might bend them into.

I bid you good writing.


Susie Finkbeiner said...

{sigh} Alas, I was a wannabe poet, too. The best I could do were sappy love poems and limericks.

joyce harback said...

Bonnie, you're well on your way.

Sitting in four poetry classes taught by Susan Plett helped me understand so much. So much. About writing poetry.

But the beginning of knowledge is only the beginning of that too careful road and one must decide whether critiquing by poet midwives will help them birth better poems or whether every poem-child born is accepted by you, the birth-mother, no matter how soggy and deformed.

I believe only a few poems are worth sharing with the world, but the 70 or 80 written in between those rare jewels are what help the poet excavate those other few. Like mining diamonds, you have to move a lot of earth...

Play with it. Whatever gets you to the page... there are guidelines and forms and formulas but ultimately there are no rules.

The world can never have too many good poems. Read Garrison Keillor's collections of good poems, read Ted Kooser and Billy Collins and any other poets you like and first you despair that you could never write like that and then you hear God saying, "I want you to write like you."

Write like you, Bonnie. Maybe poetry will be part of your future, maybe not. But if you check it out and try it, you'll be an even better writer for it.

Anonymous said...

Bonnie, what are the last three letters in the word 'poetry'? Yep, t-r-y, commonly known as 'try.'

A facet of the beauty of wading into poetry later in life is that hopefully you're a little more comfortable in your skin so you can tell the rules to kiss off, in a christlike way of course.

Bonnie Grove said...

Susie: Sappy. Yes. I most certainly did the sappy. Limericks are my hubby's specialty. I leave those to him. :)

Joyce: Susan is teacher through intuitive. I enjoy being around her. I have Garrison's Good Poems, and Good Poems for Hard Times. My husband and I like to read aloud to each other from them. One of my favorites is from Good Poems for Hard Times:

Ode to American English by Barbara Hamby. "I was missing English on day, American, really, with its pill-popping Hungarian goulash of everything from Anglo-Saxon to Zulu, because British English is not the same, if the paperback dictionary I bought at Brentano's on the Avenue de l'Opera is any indication, too cultured by half. . . "

It goes one. Revs me up for language and all it's subtle tricks. Thanks so much for your kind encouragement, Joyce.

John: I mean thebeautifuldue: The war the artist wages is always to hold in tension the rule that must be kept with the one that must be bent, sometimes broken. I tend to confuse the two. I'll keep reading your poetry, and others too. Thanks for the rally cry!

D said...

I write poetry. It isn't good enough to publish and a lot of it isn't even good enough to show to my friends. I do it for me. The feeling of getting it out is similar to reading a poem and getting it. But yeah, when I go back and look at it later it doesn't have the same effect. The writing part itself is wonderful though. You should give it a whirl!

Bonnie Grove said...

D: That feeling could be worth chasing. Thanks for the encouragement. Maybe I'll leap past my own pre-embarrassment and land somewhere soft. Best to you and your writing.

Shakespeare said...

I say write it. And if it's crap, so what? Mine's crap. Most of it's pretty awful, but I'm learning honesty, and it's teaching me a whole lot about the music of language, and that helps with my other writing.

I love Keats' "To Autumn"--one of my favorites, especially since it's my favorite season.

Bonnie Grove said...

Shakes: That is totally the vibe I'm getting from these comments. Jump in, the waters fine. Just do it.

I suppose I think too much in terms of writing something publishable, something well turned. It doesn't have to be. I'll never get anywhere if I don't t-r-y.