Three different pieces of poetry started my journey into writing poetry myself. Of course as a child I wrote the acrostic poem a time or two but it wasn’t until my ten-page analysis paper in my high school AP Literature class that I learned some of the how that puts a piece of poetry together. This particular final project we had free choice of anything we had read that year, I chose “The Raven” by the iconic Edgar Allan Poe -mostly because I felt trying to reference it in such a heavy assignment would be easier than referring to an entire novel, granted it is a long poem but I did not realize until diving in just how deep Poe goes! That particular project started my enjoyment of analysis as well. Analyzing Poe is where I started to understand more deeply Gothic themes and poetic elements such as personification, alliteration, assonance, and metaphor/simile.
In college I took Intro to Poetry. There I read works from American poets such as Elizabeth Bishop, Allen Ginsberg, Sharon Olds, Sylvia Plath, and Theodore Roethke. Roethke stuck with me at the time as I was experimenting with writing my own poetry for the first time outside of detailed direction and rules. His poem “Root Cellar” is where I learned how to feel a poem. The senses that come alive when reading this particular piece was astonishing to me and to bring the heavy common theme of “life” into a piece that contains rot fascinated me. Using imagery to depict feeling was an important tool to practice with. “Papa’s Waltz”, his more known piece, also help solidify an important artistic lesson for all mediums; meaning and interpretation is subjective to the reader! Is this piece about a boy dancing on his father’s shoes or about a drunk father with perhaps a bit of abuse? The imagery signal sent to us as we read, analyze, and marinate in is up to the reader.
Ms. Dickinson came into my life off and on and I’m not exactly sure when I read “I reason, Earth is short-” among many of her other thought-provoking pieces. Her subject matter moved effortless between nature, life, death, afterlife, and humanity and I was, and still am, struck deeply by her why. Writing poetry is a therapeutic way to put yourself and your questions out there in the world. Emily Dickinson was a mystery in some aspects and in other ways she was vulnerable with bare skin on a page.
Those are my roots in my poetry. They got me started. I’m above ground now, branching out, feeling the how and the why…..and deciding where to go.
When I first started to write it was angst leftovers from teenage years and coming of age, it was gothic and mysterious mirroring images of what I had read from others. It was chaotic and often made little sense even to myself. Looking back on work I did a decade ago brings meaning but that is probably because I have a little more of “life” under my belt. I am perfectly aware of and okay with the fact that what I interpret now from those pieces as a thirty year old was probably not what I meant as a nineteen year old. But they are my words and I’m constantly evolving as a person and as a reader. Reflection and personal evaluation is important to practice anyways.
What I write and how I accomplish isn’t miraculous or really even a gift, free verse gives way to beginners beautifully that way. I am just now experimenting with punctuation, capitalization, line breaks, and white space and thinking back I should have been all along however, I wrote with ignorance, inexperience, and it was raw but I was just pushing through the dirt at that time. Free verse is great for those who don’t understand meter, rhyme, sonnets, haiku’s, triolets, or cinquain (and the list goes on) and for me that is exactly why I felt comfortable writing poetry in the first place. I didn’t know “how” to write in the other ways yet so I could get into it without breaking rules, without “messing up”, and to make it more plain for the reader and myself (and quite frankly back then I was too lazy to learn those other forms).
Now though I’m standing right on the cliffs edge and there I sit- thinking. I am not limited by my free verse choices. There is plenty of cliffside to explore with it, I plan to visit this beautiful place often, after all- my writing roots are here! But- down in the valley, across the space to the next cliffside, or perhaps up in the clouds I have some exploring to do. I eagerly now, with a couple of publications and hundreds of free verse material under my belt (along with some life experience), look forward to the challenge, look forward to learning how to express myself and say what needs said within some concrete edges, to see what happens, to see what falls out of me, to see how I can mold the idea of finding myself and freedom in words within parameter and lines. Maybe a mix of mediums in the future as well. As a painter who works with mixed media I have no idea why I have never done this experimenting sooner… but of course before I knew what I know now I was no rule breaker. I did not know the rules were only there if you wanted them to be there and for the longest time I felt inadequate for writing free verse in the first place because I felt it was not professional enough, therefore, I did not call myself a poet.
This is the cliff, I get to choose where I go, how I get there, and most importantly enjoy the ride. This is the edge of a poet. Just one edge mind you. I’ll find more. But I get to call myself a poet now, I have allowed myself to do so and to embrace it. You can too — there are no rules unless you like rules and even then they are subjective. Just pick up a pen and write. Poetry isn’t the only world either. The pencil not the only medium. The words not the only form of expression. Our edges may define us but don’t forget they are expandable, unique, are only as sharp as we want them to be, and that what they encase is our very being bursting to either color outside of those lines or relax within it’s structure. What and where are your creative edges?
“I write for selfish reasons. I cannot lie / I write to feel the words rip off / Of my tongue in vicious rhymes. / It’s quite funny so go ahead and scoff. / I already know I’m terrible at keeping meter and time. / I write for myself, which is therapeutic at best…”“What I Write For” from available collection To Want the Winter