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.

~x

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