My English 275 class has moved on to poetry.
At first, I was like, ugh, poetry, spare me. Then we began to discuss poetry and what would be involved in explicating it, and I thought, hm, why was I getting all bent out of shape over poetry again?
Then I remembered.
I used to write poetry. In high school I got a few poems published in the school’s literary journal, one into the school newspaper, and one into an anthology of young poets. I still have a worn out copy of that book, and the newspaper, and each of the journals. I used to look at them and be proud and exasperated in turns. I seemed to have a grasp on how to write these things once, but I lost it, and lost interest in it and turned to other expressions.
I wrote a poem for my husband, before we even really met almost, a poem that, to me, answered what I had read of what he had written. I crafted that poem with care and precision. I think it was a sonnet, but I can’t find it now. My poetry tended to have some structure, whether a traditional form, or something that was at least an internal sort of symmetry. I resisted the idea of free verse in part because I didn’t understand how a poem could be poetry without a structure, intrinsic or extrinsic. I included allusions to the Odyssey in that poem, and I think there was a rhyme scheme as well. Almost no one commented on it in the forum to which it was posted. It seemed to fade away, not noted, and I felt a little disillusioned.
But it wasn’t until a typo-filled pathos-dripping piece of drivel was posted by another person that I really got sick of poetry. This person’s “work” made me laugh. It was cliched, I thought, and trying too hard. Ridiculous.
Everyone else loved it. They heaped praise upon both the poem and the author, marveling at how touched they were to read it, and how lovely it was, and how wonderful a person this author was. Never had they before read such a beautiful, heartfelt, touching piece of writing in their very lives!
I think that’s when I gave up on poetry, and began to scoff instead at its practitioners as flighty folks without the endurance to write long form. I convinced myself that I hated poetry, that my writing of it was just a phase in high school – an obligatory phase for the kind of teenager that I was, right? Trying to write it again in my twenties was just a mistake, proven by the reception my last poetry received. Clearly, I was not a poet, and should not even try.
But just as reading The Sound and the Fury closely and multiple times over the first weeks of the semester gradually brought me to a state of admiration, expressed through a sincere attempt at flattery, the study of poetry is tempting me to try again the road I chose not to travel.
The morning light playing over the foothills as dawn has become a lambent promise of day’s arrival. The dark clouds preceding rain have become piles of wicked candy floss. A goalie’s acrobatic save became a balletic kick to preserve the sanctity of the woven desire. Ways of describing images collide in my head, for better or worse, and I fear it won’t be long before I try to put them together in some internally structured form that satisfies itself to my eyes.
If a poem needs not have form to be a poem, not even the form of versed lines, then what remains to define a poem other than themes and images and criteria subjective? The poet chooses the words, paints the images, strains to find the form, formless or constrained, that expresses their purpose. Is it the reader’s response that defines poetry, or the author’s intent?
My intentions with poetry have always been clear to me. An expression of what I felt, in some form, free but not free. For the fun of creation and the satisfaction of completion, not for others, but for me.