I was pushed to think about poetry today — my poetry specifically. Now there may be some poetry-haters reading this, and before you groan, close your browsers and take cover, just hear me out.
When I took that first hesitant step into writing “creatively” (rather than spewing out endless college research papers and essays), for some reason I started with poetry. I never liked reading poetry, but the first time I heard poetry recited I fell in love with it. I had the opportunity to hear Maya Angelou recite her Still I Rise and she moved me to tears. I knew then that there was power in poetry. It was then I started writing poetry and posting it on my long-ago static website.
No one seemed particularly impressed with my poetry — or at least I thought so since most people made no comment and looked decidedly embarrassed when I asked them about it. After a while I stopped writing poetry altogether. I knew I would never be anything like a Maya Angelou.
But my foray into writing poetry was not a waste of time. Writing poetry taught me how to carefully choose my words. It taught me about rhythm, imagery, and metaphor. I taught me that all writing, like poetry, bubbles up from inside. I learned that I may have a particular goal in mind when I begin to write, but when the muse takes over, my writing may end up somewhere else.
I am not sorry that I was a mediocre. From that experience, I learned how to be a competent story writer.
Here is a poem about writing poetry that I wrote about sixteen years ago. It may not be great; but I like it.
ARS POETICA I: How to Write a Poem
Poems, like gangs, take over the beach at dark.
It’s not safe, I’m told, to go down there.
But to learn to write a poem, I am going this morning,
in Spring when clouds, thick like pudding, hug
chilled, wet sand and the quiet feels like padding on a wall.
I sprawl on the sand, feet pointing towards the surf,
lacy green foam washing poem-matter over me,
coaxing words whispered in a hesitant ear,
each wave’s fondle hiding a fatal undertow.
Then I realize: I am not safe here.
LJG (c) 2013. Ars Poetica originally written in 1997, recast in 1999
El Porto at Dawn: 2006