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TRYING OUT POETRY


TRYING OUT POETRY

Never reading a lot of poetry, I am surely no expert in writing it. Like writing though, reading great authors and their books helps me write more fluidly and I read books now like an actress or a director probably watches a movie, like a hungry student eager for the next lesson.

Mary Oliver, ee Cummings, Nayyriah Waheed, Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Dr. Seuss even, are poets I have enjoyed who immediately come to mind. As I struggled to come up with naming at least ten poets I am familiar with in more than their names, I quickly realized that I have a lot to learn. This is what excites me the most, having a lot to learn. I am sure I have read more of the well known poets in school, but well that was then, This is now. I have a much deeper longing for nurturing my brain with my heart instead of thinking the two are separate.

I listened this past week to an interview with Mary Oliver by Krista Tippett that my dear friend and glorious Doctor W. sent to me and this book was mentioned, A Poetry Handbook, A Prose Guide To Understanding and Writing Poetry. I broke my self imposed rule of no shopping and bought it promptly and began my newest brain challenge. One of my favorite paragraphs is this:

But to write well it is entirely necessary to read widely and deeply. Good poems are the best teachers. Perhaps they are the only teachers. I would go so far as to say that, if one must make a choice between reading or taking part in a workshop, one should read.

So I entered into my pact with this new book, feeling incompetent but in a good way, knowing that I have a lot to learn and am open and willing to march forth. Like trying to learn grammar before speaking a new language, poetry has all of the mechanical parts that a novice like myself understands is out there in every poem, but to deliberately apply the rules and regs is a fresh discipline to this amateur. So where to start? Of course Mary Oliver leads me to believe, Yes I Can, and just when I start to feel completely lost, I thumb through her small book and land on this poem by Ezra Pound. It grabs my attention as I humbly read not only what, but how and why. The placement of the words, the punctuation, the rhythm that makes the content shine. So much to learn. My thinking is provoked in a way I hadn’t considered just five minutes before.

the word I accidentally cut off is ‘sun’, “picnicking in the sun”

Of all the morning rituals I have stuck with for well over a year, it has been the morning ritual of writing that completes my day. It doesn’t just call gently for me, it screams out for me. Pungently. Forcefully. If I miss the call, I am more than slightly off. I heard an interview with a writer once who said she was often asked how to get started writing. Her answer was, “Write.” I understand this now more than ever because I have the wisdom of retrospect when I used to think more about writing than actually writing. Physical exercise is like this. How many times have I thought about going for a run the night before, visualizing myself getting out of bed in the early hours and putting on my running shoes only to find myself waking up and coming up with an alternative like paperwork, or getting sucked into the abyss of terrible morning news. Proving that no matter how much I think about running unless I actually run, I am not running. So simple.

So simple in fact that Mary Oliver puts it this way:

Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself — soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.

Why should it? It can wait. It can stay silent a lifetime. Who knows anyway what it is, that wild, silky part of ourselves without which no poem can live?

I feel this way. I must write now. I can’t imagine my life or my mornings without its presence. Not just poetry as this is a new idea, but all writing.

Medium has been a gift to a former closet writer like myself because it has created location to land my words. This has given me the prompt to flow and I have not really reworked my writings as I have tried to use the vehicle of Medium to just write without the rules and regs. There has been a lot of freedom in consciously allowing myself permission to write and flow leaving Miss Foley (my negative muse from second grade) back in the classroom. As I have gained more confidence in my writing abilities, Miss Foley doesn’t seem as much of a hindrance to me anymore. I can’t believe I am writing this, but I am beginning to appreciate her old crotchety influence on my grammar and spelling and her insistence on discipline. I find myself calling her back into the next phase of my writing, which will need the exercise of discipline as I delve into fiction and poetry.

This is the glory of reading and writing. It never is finished. Always something to look forward to. Never bored. Never tired of its call. Just as I write this Van Morrison comes on singing Brand New Day. Divinely appropriate.

As I approach the one year anniversary of my double mastectomy, April 7th, I am struck by all the changes in me this past year. Physical obviously, but the unveiling, the stripping of the literal cape I, in the past, called the symbolism of my breasts, was so much deeper for me in my overall growth. It took the appointment with the surgeon to get me to write. This has been the convergence that set the storm on its perfect course. Irony almost feels cliché. I have set sail and there is no destination other than the breeze at my back and the pen in my hand. Can’t wait to see where the wind takes me this year.

be easy.

take your time.

you are coming

home.

to yourself.

– the becoming | wing

Nayyriah Waheed

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