Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thoughts About Poetry for the Finale of Poetry Month

So why write poems every day or at least once a week? Why bother to learn about archaic forms when it's so much easier to write reams of floppy emotive free verse, paying no attention to consonance, assonance, beats per line, never mind rhyming endings?

And how dare anyone, some prose writer yet, hang a one or two draft poem out to air in public when poetry is a mysterious mental alchemy conducted in secret by the high priests and priestesses of the craft? Why, demystifying the joy, the process and the mental work-out of writing a poem could open the floodgates to hordes of amateur poets!

Wait, now I want to research what the collective noun for a thundering herd of poets might be...I thought I had that wonderful book, An Exaltation of Larks, but a quick browse of my bookshelves in this writing room does not reveal it. It has the collective word for all sorts of creatures. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the matter.

That's what writing, any kind of writing but especially poems, and especially trying out set forms, does for me. It makes me curious. Analytical. Forms compress words and therefore sharpens up and excises flabby vocabulary. It wakes up my ears. It opens my heart and mind. It forces me to think bigger. Think better.

Now I have to finesse an online workshop with six different classrooms with ages ranging from Grade 3 to Grade 10. I'm going to have the students in New Denver, Nakusp and Edgewood tackle the topics of Fear and Imagination. So I will, being a prescriptive type of teacher, spend the next days really homing in on those two entities. I like to reinvent my own workshops, keep them fresh, discover new things. I have the bones and the props but now I need to find the right words to help each kid find a way to tap into their own imaginations. And to write freely and without judgment.

Isak Dinesen (Out of Africa) said: "Write a little every day without hope and without despair."

I would add, write a little every day that is simply writing for the joy of it, for the writer needs to flex her muscles for the big projects ahead and, just as a runner or a hockey player does his stretches before starting to train in earnest, the writer needs to practice daily. Otherwise it's all talk, no action, no results.

Albert Einstein said it best: "Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions."

I'm not nearly as profound as either of those great minds but I humbly submit that growing plants from seed is a lot like planting a spark in my own mind. I nurture it and watch it grow, fend off any negative mildew and bugs, give it light and air and good soil to keep it grounded. Then everything, inside and out, grows. 


  1. I very much like the idea of flexing one's muscles.

    "An Exaltation of Larks" says "an iamb of poets."

    Ah, yes, and "a browse of readers."

  2. Thank you, Lea! You are a true wordsmith!