Friday, April 22, 2016

You Write, I Write, We All Write Poetry Part 5

Writing The Poem

Writing anything assumes that you have something to say. Most people do. Some people don't believe they have the skills necessary to actually transfer thought to paper, and so they never really try to write anything deeper than a shopping list. Insecurity can block even the most imaginative minds.

Poetry offers you a chance to play with words in a different way from, say, everyday conversation. When you're talking with a friend, you try to make sense. You try to form a bridge of communication between the two of you. I mean you can't talk gibberish while your friend is trying to discuss politics. After all, you're not goo-gooing to a newborn baby.

Poetry is written in a kind of minimalist language. It is more suggestive than it is opinionated. If you want to write an opinion piece, well, that's an editorial. It's not a poem. Poetry attempts to raise the question more than it tries to set down an answer to something. A poem invites its readers to discover their own answers.

I've always believed that poetry is purely descriptive. It describes people, places, ideas, or just about anything without being judgemental. In other words, the poet offers you a portrait of some small part of the world, a snippet that invites you to expand something into a larger context.

You may or may not relate to that experience. You may or may not have felt the same way about that experience. You may or may not feel that the description is reasonable or that it crosses some line of good taste, truth, or whatever. As a poet, I am only writing to offer you a passing glimpse of something. It's never the whole picture, sometimes never even the real picture. I've photoshopped out some of the wrinkles and blemishes, or on another occasion, photoshopped in some wrinkles and blemishes.

Poetry creates ambiguity on purpose. The purpose of this ambiguity is to incite the reader into filling in the missing pieces, to resolve the ambiguity. A poem should offer little more than a first impression, and trust the reader to deepen that impression by adding details of his or her personal experiences.

The most common stumbling block to any kind of writing is the complaint, "I don't know how to start." My response to this has always been the same. You start by starting or you don't start at all. I learned, many years ago, that failure is an option. There are days when I simply cannot write. It's not a judgement on my ability to write; it is simply a condition of that day. I know that, sooner or later, the words will come.

As I suggested several days ago, poetry is often inspired by some important and often traumatic event in our lives. As long as life is going along tickety-boo, we don't feel the urge to sit down and write about our everyday experiences. When something momentous or something traumatic comes along, then we might be inclined to memorialize or work through that event in writing.

The best way into a poem is to just let yourself go. Write whatever comes to mind in free verse, and write without stopping until you feel like you can't write another word. This form of spontaneous writing may result in a jumble of ideas and words, but sometimes that is what poetry is — a jumble of ideas and words.

After you have spewed your thoughts on the page, leave it for a day or two. When you come back to it, then you can begin the editing process. Remove repetitious ideas and unnecessary words. Try to be succinct and focus your poem around one or two central images. Too much imagery about too many different things simply confuses the reader. Save those extraneous images and ideas for another poem that you might write another day. Finally, check that the poem flows from a beginning to an ending and that the lines and the line breaks carry the reader forward.

Above all, make your writing experiences enjoyable. When you sit down to write, listen to some music you like, have a cup of coffee or tea, or fill the room with aromatic incense. Self-expression is such an important adventure, since it defines a small part of who you are. Face your demons and your angels on equal terms, reveal just as much as you feel comfortable revealing, and never ever let anyone tell you that what you write isn't good enough.




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