Recently, I read an Instagram post which laid the claim that new writers should first learn to write poetry before attempting to enter their real endeavor of novel writing. He said poetry was the place for writers to ‘cut their teeth’ before moving into the more serious work of fiction. That was the gist of it, anyway, and quite enough to have me fuming.
My initial impression of the writer’s declaration was one of veritable insult. A gasp of utter outrage escaped me that assuredly must have echoed around the world. My emotion-filled reaction was to jot off a retort of offense and to bitterly defend the majesty of the Poetry Kingdom (where the hearts of all poets dwell). Which I did, indeed, do. However, and to my credit, I withheld from clicking the ‘send’ button and went back to read over the writer’s comments a few more times.
In review, I deemed the possibility of a deeper meaning weaved within the careless and arrogant sounding statements. Whether true, or an interpretation I chose to glean, serves only as further evidence of the complicated human mind. Noting the lack of any other complaints, such as I was about to make, I convinced myself of a misunderstanding. Upon this conclusion, I backspaced out of my comment and without a word, carried on with my scrolling.
Intent to forget the borderline innuendo, that poetry is little more than a padded playground for fledgling writers learning to string words together, I attempted to move on with my life. This worked about as well as throttling a boat forward without pulling up the anchor. Unresolved, the Instagram post continued to pull at my mind. Now, here I am blogging about it, making a public analysis and defending the validity of poets everywhere!
I am not going to explain poetry or all its forms. Nor am I qualified. I will not say all poetry is important, meaningful, or even relatable. Poetry’s range is far too complex for me to cover here. Poetry is often methodically examined in school courses by spectacled professors swelled up with knowledge and years spent ruminating over the meaning, measure of form, rhythm and cadence of great poets. However, I’m less inclined to view poetry with such critical eyes. I dont enjoy it that way.
Some poets agonize for hours, days, and even weeks, into months, to mimic the stylistic brilliance of the classical greats, trying to ‘get it right’. Others whip up a handful of poems everyday and I do not find them to be any less relevant or valuable.
I risk saying no poetry is written without meaning. Even a limerick serves an intent to leave readers thinking or chuckling. Any person can transfer interesting thoughts and observations into written poetic expression in the simplest form, and meaning emerges through its potential for interpretation a hundred different ways. And in turn, we may not fully understand, or effectively strain, the true meaning from the poems we read. Each mind being a complex weave of life experiences that affect and shape our perceptions and expressions of our internal and external world.
But we can lean into understanding, or at least attempt to siphon inferences. To do this, we must read, read again, test and taste the words, roll them around and savor them, like wine on the tongue of the mind. A book of poetry is not like a novel. Poems cannot be rapidly consumed one after another and be well appreciated. Poetry is time spent with moods, metaphors, and movement. Some poems are light and delightful, a quick sugar to appease, others are deeper, more moving but easy to appreciate, and others still, are richer, laced with intricate nuances and intensity, which must be savored.
As with the post author who, at first, seemed to dilute the complexity of poetry, I believe I may have done him an injustice of the same. In my rush to read over his words, I missed a deeper meaning. Perhaps he was not insinuating that writing poetry is easy, but quite the opposite.
Poems, being shorter forms of story telling writing, are where one learns to hone expression and focus of ideas, making them clearer in the mind and concise in delivery. Etching imagery, intensity of emotion, moment, or experience using a more precise interlacing of thought, senses, and language to quickly immerse a reader, imprint an image, and relay a feeling or message.
Yes, perhaps the Instagram post author is right. Learn to write poetry if you want to improve your storytelling. A writer’s rite of passage, right? Maybe, so. What do you think?
from a stream
Poetry of wisdom,
light and dark,
A two way mirror of
reflection and perception,
The heart and soul,
A rite of passage,
pressed onto pages.
Moving in now!