Seven reasons I love writing poetry

Sylvia Plath

Writing poetry is a wonderful way to jumpstart your creativity and hone your writing skills. A decade ago, I wouldn’t have dared write this sentence, much less declare myself a poet, but now I have no qualms about it. After all, who decides who’s a poet and who isn’t? Danged if I know.

I’ve written in many genres over the years, but poetry eluded me until the year 2001. As a member of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, I had the opportunity to submit my work to the Oriel, the congregation’s annual literary magazine, and I decided to give it a try. Since then, poetry has become one of my favorite means of expressing myself. I have no aspirations to fame and fortune as a poet; I haven’t even published a chapbook yet. But there’s something wonderfully satisfying about writing poetry. Today I’d like to share seven reasons I love this art form.

  • Poetry is speedy. On average, once the words start to flow, it takes me about an hour to come up with a reasonably polished first draft – about the same time I spend on a blog post.
  • Poetry’s a good way of catching ideas on the fly. Most of my poetic inspiration comes from immediate experience. There’s usually an “ah hah!” moment when I think “this would make a good poem.” If I’ve got a journal handy, I jot down a few preliminary phrases and ideas. This isn’t always possible, though. When I was skiing down Panorama at Jiminy Peak last week, the slushy spring conditions inspired me to think, “This would be a good blog post. No, on second thought, it would be better as a poem.” It wasn’t until later, when I was at the bar with my hot buttered rum, that I had a chance to capture the ideas on paper. You can read the results in Monday’s blog on skiing.
  • Poetry’s a wonderful way of processing your emotions. I

    Mary Oliver

    became intensively involved in poetry a few years ago, when I was depressed and discouraged about publishing my novels. Exploring my feelings through poetry became a vital way of coping with my depression. For many, poetry has been literally life-saving.

  • Poetry’s highly subjective, and hardly anyone knows what makes a good poem. It’s a lot like the cliché about visual art, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” That’s how most people react to poetry.
  • Poetry’s great for getting immediate feedback and applause. No matter where you live, there’s likely to be at least one poetry open mic near you. Many of my poems have been precipitated by the knowledge that there’s an open reading that night and I really ought to bring something new. Most poetry audiences are supportive and enthusiastic no matter what you read.
  • Poetry’s highly compatible with computers. I do my best writing in Microsoft word, editing as I go. Some poets prefer longhand, but I love the flexibility of diving in with the first phrase that comes to mind, then playing around with the words on the screen.
  • Poetry’s a good way to hone your literary skills in other genres. In poetry, every word counts. Part of the process lies in finding the best possible way to communicate your ideas in the fewest possible words, rooting out the clichés and discovering the most powerful images possible. The habit of writing this way carries over into other genres. 

What about you? Have you tried your hand at poetry?  I know quite a few readers of this blog are part of the vibrant poetry scene in New York’s Capital District, but what about the rest of you? As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please – come out of lurk mode and comment!

Windows on the World, World Trade Center

Stop by on Friday when my guest will be Roger Hudson, author of the historical mystery set in Athens, Death by Amphora. And click below to read “In Memoriam: Windows on the World,” my somewhat solipsistic take on the tragedy of September 11th and one of my first published poems.

 

In Memoriam: Windows on the World

I see myself alone, perched high above the city, sipping Chardonnay.

Scribbling in my journal, creating affirmations, visualizing incredible success.

            My novel tops the Times Best Seller List.

            Boundless abundance and bliss are mine.

 

An eternity of emptiness waits just beyond the window walls.

The sky is blazing blue.  Helicopters buzz below me, fat bumble bee chariots

ferrying the wealthy of Wall Street.  I’d never ride in one – too dangerous.

But the jets are another story.  They gleam above the water, across the harbor,

Floating heavenward as if by magic as Lady Liberty waves her stony farewell.

            I’m afraid of flying, so I focus on the destination.

            A couple of quick drinks at the airport help enormously.

 

The waiter brings my second glass of wine and replenishes my bowl of nuts.

His attitude is cordial yet respectful, and I feel totally pampered as I sink back

in my plush velvet chair.  As the sun sinks over New Jersey,

the handsome young pianist at the baby grand begins a Gershwin tune. 

Life hardly gets any better than this.

            My husband doesn’t like to come here.

            The empty sky unnerves him, and he doesn’t trust the building’s engineers.

            So when I visit New York City, I sometimes make this solitary pilgrimage

To empower myself atop the World Trade Center, at the Windows on the World.

 

Twenty years have passed; catastrophe has struck.

I’m older, and the world is darker now.

Thousands of people died on that cloudless September morning, 

too many to comprehend, much less to mourn. I may be selfish, but

it’s easier to mourn the towers, the dreams they stood for, and to grieve

the knowledge that I’ll never again ride the elevator to that amazing aerie in the sky.

            I never did publish that novel, but I’ve got another one ready to go.

            My dreams have come down to earth. 

Now I nourish them at home, on the lake, in my garden. 

Being grounded has its own rewards.

© 2001 Julie Lomoe

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. L. Diane Wolfe
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 13:55:42

    I wrote ‘songs’ as I called them when I was a teen, but it’s been years since I wrote anything that resembled poetry. But it is indeed a great form of expression.

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Mar 10, 2010 @ 14:47:52

      Hi Diane. “Anything that resembles poetry” – that’s the key. Who’s to say what resembles poetry? Reading the above poem, I realize it resembles prose and is wordier than what I write now. But I wouldn’t go back and edit it -I’ll let it stand in memory of that period in time.

      Reply

  2. Arlee Bird
    Mar 10, 2010 @ 21:43:40

    I do enjoy writing poetry on occasion. Seems like I always have songs running through my head and unfortunately I often don’t write them down. Sometimes on Fridays I will post poems on my blog, but I’m careful not to do it too often as I think sometimes people are a bit scared off by poetry. I do think poetry is a great way to express one’s feelings or abstract thoughts.
    Lee

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Mar 12, 2010 @ 10:32:32

      Hi Arlee, thanks for visiting. I have snatches of ideas I try to write down, but not whole “songs”. I usually don’t know what I’m going to write until I’m in the act of writing it!

      I share some of your ambivalence about posting poetry, but so far I haven’t had anyone tell me they dislike it! Like you, I limit the frequency so that people won’t get confused about what type of blog this is.

      Reply

  3. Therese
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 21:57:39

    Great post about poetry, Julie. I look forward to reading your ski poem on Monday!

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Mar 12, 2010 @ 10:38:13

      Thanks, Therese. Actually the skiing poem ran last Monday. It’s in the post before this one.

      I almost mentioned you in the post above. I give you most of the credit for my starting to write poetry, since you were the editor of the Oriel at the time I first submitted. But I omitted that detail in the interest of brevity.

      Folks, Therese has long been an excellent poet, and several years ago she went back to graduate school for an MFA in poetry. She’s someone who actually does understand what good poetry is! You can visit her blog by clicking on her name.

      Reply

  4. Carol H. Jewell
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 17:51:29

    I love poetry. Love to read it, love to write it, love to (occasionally) get it published!

    I write a lot, but don’t share it all. Some have become songs.

    I’ll have 3 published in the University at Albany’s “Women’s connection,” spring 2010 issue.

    Reply

  5. alexandra
    Jun 19, 2010 @ 01:18:49

    in so many ways i feel like i am connected to sylvia plath. we are kinda the same person. i have had problems with depression for most of my life and i used poetry as a way to deal with it.
    i look to sylvia as my role modle, for her and i are so much alike. i to have tryed to kill myself not under a house but with sleeping pills.
    i use poetry like my best friend to vent and throw my feelings at. i have some many journals of poems no one has read and i feel that each journal is a close and personal friend

    Reply

    • julielomoe
      Jun 22, 2010 @ 10:33:37

      Hi Alexandra,
      Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your candor, and I can appreciate your identifying with Sylvia Plath, since I too struggle with depression. When you say “role model,” I hope you’re referring to her poetry rather than the tragic trajectory of her life. Best of luck to you.

      Reply

  6. lyttlekay
    Jun 04, 2012 @ 17:43:26

    We have the same love for poetry

    Reply

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