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
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!
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