That was the dude’s poem. Seriously.
When a visiting “modern poet” came to my Creative Writing class and read his stream-of-consciousness poetry aloud, most of us were dumbfounded. A guy raised his hand and asked our visitor, “So, what does it mean?”
The visiting poet replied, “I don’t remember.”
There’s a reason poetry gets a bad rap.
But maybe the guy was onto something….even though I personally wouldn’t call it a poem. I still think he had the talent of a dictionary in a blender, and I still think he should have worn a beret and tapped a bongo. It would have been more entertaining. What he was doing, though, was focusing on the power of individual words to create images, emotions, and associations. A lesson in SHOW, DON’T TELL.
However you define it and whatever flavor you prefer, all poetry is a celebration of words–each individual word is important and essential. As writers of poetry or prose, we want every word to count, and studying poetry is a great way to get a feel for that.
If you’re looking for some accessible poetry that makes every word count, consider Billy Collins. Many of his poems are actually little stories. They make sense, and they do SO much with a few words. The last stanza of ON TURNING TEN makes me cry every time…..
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.
Also, consider the anthology GOOD POEMS, edited by Garrison Keillor. Very accessible, enjoyable, and varied! (And includes some of Billy Collins’ work, as well.) Gift idea, right here!!
As you read, savor each word. Think about the emotion it conjures, the background knowledge it brings up in your mind, and the image it creates. You don’t have to torture a meaning out of it to enjoy it. You can do so much with so little…you know, that whole, SHOW DON’T TELL thing! Poetry will sharpen those skills, even if you’re just word-vomiting a stream of consciousness list of words while wearing a beret and tapping a bongo.
Let yourself continue to fall in love with words and their magic. Get to know each individual one and the way it makes you feel. Use them wisely and lovingly. Celebrate them!
BONUS….Write a poem and submit it to our February Art and Poetry Show!!