Poetry Should be in Every Writer’s Bag of Tricks

I had an emo stage when I was very young. I called it: High School. Growing from that (relatively normal) stage in my life like lichen on a damp grave, my love for poetry grew.

I’ll be the first to say it wasn’t a normal love for poetry, or a “poet’s” love for poetry. I never spent hours on rainy days reading my favorite Dickenson or Cummings. In fact, the only “short” poetry I ever read was required reading in class.

Poetry wakes something different in my mind than prose. It is a puzzle, or art. It is an environment, or a state of mind. It is Milton, and Dante, and Longfellow, and Poe. My favorite poetry isn’t the violin string too taut to play casually, but the violin so used it’s got a soul.

So I wrote. I can’t write short stories to save my life. They always start short, but end long, long, long. Always. My poetry was my short story: most were dreams, some were snippets. Short shorts. Some were whole ten-page encounters. And of course they started off emo, writing about my woes. The worst kind of blues imaginable. I fell in love with Persy Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind, puzzled out Dante’s Divine Comedy (as best a high schooler can), and understood Milton’s Lucifer (as best a Catholic can).

I still write poetry, from time to time, although I realize that only when I’m alone (without a partner) that I write anything of substance or personal value. I’ve never been published in poetry and don’t expect to be, because it isn’t an end of itself: it is a brilliant tool to understand words, understand the fluidity of the English language, and of course to expand your mind.

Poetry is zen prose. I learned so much from it. It’s easier for a person to “dumb” writing down to his market’s reading level than to expand it out to truly stretch a thought to encompass the emotional state of, say, an abused child attending his abusee father’s funeral. It’s easy to say, “he had dry eyes. He felt sad, but distant.” It’s not easy to write the path.

Some of my last poetry before I met my (then girlfriend) fiancee:

I breathe like a fever-beetle, and staunch Lilac’s hemmoraging
Warbridled and brackish, kindless and kinetic, a halo of red
A ring of posies; do you see the subtle taste floating in the sea of star?
We are all of us sick and stranded. I am a well. Fill me.

It’s clearly not accessible. It’s complicated, and filled with what some would label “cryptic,” a series of themes and symbols that have evolved meaning for me. Like a painter, perhaps, focuses on the human form for years, or a specific color of paint, or… apples.

I personally feel every writer should have a grasp of poetry. I don’t care if you’re a journalist, a textbook writer, or science fiction novelist. When I feel particularly pent-up, I dive into it to try and better understand myself.



A Complication concerning Feminism.

This isn’t directly about feminism. It’s actually a lot more about philosophy. Or something.

The way I write certain things comes out as a big ball of inspiration, or crazy–I don’t know which. To the subconscious, primordial soup that is my “muse,” I pile all things of interest day in and day out, sometimes months or years at a time, until one day I wake up with a huge brick of… muse excrement… that looks something like a painting.

I recently posted one of those bricks to a critiquing group. Six people tried to read and understand it, and I dare say, only one made it to where I was hoping; he was able to critique it, criticize it, and give me an incredible amount of insight to what I was writing, and how to make it better. He even touched something inside me when he said, “I think you are unlike most people and like me. You read for fun, yes, but you prefer to read to get something out of it.” English is his third language, and he understood more of it than any of the other critiquers on the site. He fumbled through a lot, lost a lot of information, but ticked through, line for line, each image and idea. It was incredible.

The story begins with a woman sitting in the middle of a stone-walled room, on a couch, staring at the incense smoke coming from a burner on the side of the couch. She followed it, and she sets out on an internal journey that follows objects in the room–tapestries, a bone cage, a skeleton of a bird–and she comes to the realization that she wants to leave the room, leave the house, and become like her husband, a warrior. It’s complicated in that I used several paintings of fire imagry–flame without smoke, smoke without flame, an empty fireplace, incense smoke–to denote the observation of fire with no heat. The woman needs heat. Feels warm. Wants to warm others.

It was a work that tickled me pink: I focused on a Taoist ideal, a tenent, which states that thought is divine, but the moment one acts on thought, one destroys the divinity and becomes destructive. The woman embodies a Taoist ideal in her thinking, in her observation, in her creation. The woman looks at the painting of Gelke, the Seraph-li (which is my word for a firefly angel), trapped in a bottle. Up until that moment, she embodied Gelke, a god. She was stoic, perfect, caged yet allowed to be caged. She stood as a person of absolute discipline: her freedom was inside, and her strength was there. Yet from the outside her husband had kept her at home, squandering her external qualities. So she came to a crossroads, a decision she had to make inside:

Remain, of her own volition, spiritually perfect, a symbol and sign of Gelke and Taoist belief? Or change, act, and destroy that perfection in lieu of physical equality to her husband and male counterpart, and become a warrior like him? Opposing the Seraph-li painting is the painting of a field of lilies in the water, denoting and symbolising a great battle fought in the same swamp. It was titled The Massacre of Lilies, and her husband had helped to create it. It is the decision between the two that this story hangs its climax on. She chooses the feministic side, touching the blue eggshells of Gelke’s hands one last time before leaving the room entirely.

It was lost on everyone. Taoist. Feminism. Everything. Lost. I wish I could portray this aspect as well as I want to. Yet with this frustration comes the one critique that can help me directly: he’s a spiritual man. I know this from his interest in suffering to understand, fighting to learn. He’s not a native American, either. He lives in some Swedish state. I enjoyed his critique so much, and it made me so happy to read it.

I’ll work on my piece and continue making it better. Maybe someday people will read it and go, “My God. She Chose Feminism over Taoism!” ~x