On Poetry


In the wee hours of this morning, as my eyes tried to wake up and I convinced my body that yes, I needed to get out of bed at 5am to write, I glimpsed the title of a writer friend’s blog post – Our Stories Are Not Meant For Everyone. Based upon the belief that our vulnerabilities are not meant for indiscriminate public consumption, my friend suggested  others must earn the right to learn them. This idea of who gets to read our stories, slip under our skin for a few moments, move around in our head space, got me thinking about poetry and an essay a friend sent me the other day by Emily Carr on writing, and writing poetry in particular.

One section of Carr’s essay quotes Irish poet David Whyte as saying “the deeper discipline of poetry is overhearing yourself say things you didn’t want to know about the world.” That statement spoke to me as I continued through Carr’s words and I found myself returning to Whyte, and my interpretation of him, repeatedly. Mostly I toyed with the idea that the poem is chameleon-like in nature, a place one might hide their own stories within its words, and leave all who read it wondering: is that piece about her? or someone else? or is it about no one at all and simply pure fiction?

Soon afterwards, I penned the following admission: “much of my poetry is personal, although I’ve written plenty about imaginary lovers or my characters or my friends and how I want to see them at that moment in my dark world of torment and heartbreak…much of it is what I don’t want to admit out loud – things I didn’t want to know about the world (especially my world) – but am able to put down on paper.” This amorphous nature of the poem, this is-it-personal-or-is-it-fiction is precisely why I love the form. (Or fell in love with the form after I stopped being so scared of it and just dove in and swam around in the rhythm of my work.)

Awash in deadlines and words upon words upon words, the poem is the perfect tool for me these days, a respite from my prose, but keeping me within my art because trust me, one too many dance breaks, and I’m going to dance myself right into a blown deadline. It disciplines while allowing the freedom to explore the different beats in my head, the rhythms that thrum in my blood, the ways word and sound come together just so, and I’m able to do it in smallish spurts of intense creativity.

The poem enables me to get my story out there – my desires vulnerabilities sadnesses victories – without having to actively admit, oh yeah, this piece is about me. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, no one really knows and I’m confessing nothing.

The poem allows me to send secret love notes or poison barbs, all veiled in the beauty of wordplay and rhythm and sex and desire. It helps me corral the words bouncing around in my head, those wanting to come “bursting” out of me in a very Bukowski-like manner.

Most of all, the poem indulges my extroverted introvert, providing me a space to hide and be myself or be someone else or be no one at all.

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3 thoughts on “On Poetry

  1. I had a friend who taught a class about analyzing handwriting. It interested me enough that I bought a book on it. Really interesting what our handwriting says about us. (I loaned the book to someone and never got it back–you’d think I’d learn), but if this is your handwriting, it’s really distinctive!

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