a word about poetry

Uncategorized Jul 14, 2021

Let me begin by saying that I’m no expert on poetry…and upon Googling the word “poetry”, I read a definition on Wikipedia that I barely understand:

       "a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language--such as aphonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and meter--to evoke meanings in addition, or in place of, the prosaic, ostensible meaning." 

Where prose is a form of writing that more closely resembles the way we speak, there is a blur in the lines between stream of consciousness prose and free verse poetry.

What poetry is not, at least all the time, is confessional or self-revelatory in a specific sense.  To be sure, because a poem comes from the mind of a writer, it does reflect that writer’s view of the world.  But it might be, and usually is, observational.  An image occurs to a poet, and he or she runs with it, then hones it and crafts it and heightens some imagery to make it feel multi-layered and cohesive.

Now, I lay no claims to being a poet.  I do think that I’m an observer of life.  When I started writing, I began with a photographic image and wrote what I saw.  After a while I started stripping away words that seemed extraneous.  At that point I was probably writing stream of consciousness prose.  (Maybe I still am.)  But then my husband suggested that if was trying to write poetry, I should read more poetry.  I did, and found some that I loved and some that baffled me.  I’ve been trying to emulate the former, but I’m sure I’ve baffled you from time to time.

One thing I don’t really enjoy is explaining my poetry.  I love to hear when something has moved a reader, because that means that I have somehow tapped into a common experience…I’ve observed well and communicated adequately.  But I worry when people ask me if I’m all right or if I’m sad after reading one of my poems.  I’ve simply let an image speak to me, in all its exhalation of grief or joy or fear or peace.  And mixing those emotions is the most interesting to me. 

For instance, “In the Shallows” from last week began with the image of small children playing near the shore of a lake. Sweet and lovely.   But the stark semicircle of sand in the shallows meeting deeper water looked slightly ominous to me, and so my mind went to the adult experience with all its complications.  I blended in words and images of water’s unseen depths.  Some of you could feel that because you’ve lived that yourselves.  Others worried about me.  To be sure, I do get overwhelmed sometimes by life, but don’t we all?  I still appreciate the childlike sweetness of the shallows and savor the memory of just how carefree life was when I was a young child.  

However, life does and should wake you up to its complexities and ambiguities.  And that is what I try to reflect in my poems.  So, please write and tell me that the poem makes you feel sad or that it is truthful to your life.  But don’t expect me to have an easy answer to how I’m feeling.  I’m having all the feelings, all the time.  Thank God! 

Love, Liz