I’m not much of a poet. Back in the early years of the twenty-first century, I tried my hand at writing some poetry, and I even read a few of my poems at the Open Mic gathering at Winston-Salem Writers when I lived in North Carolina. I did most of my poem writing when I lived in Cincinnati, before I moved to NC in 2007. But poetry and I never seemed to get along very well, and I gave up my poetic attempts after about a year. That poetic interlude came during a lull in the writing of my first novel, when it was at a point where I realized the novel was so blasphemously boring as to be exasperatingly unreadable, and I was thinking about how to repair it. But one other thing happened during that time to goad me into writing poetry. I’d picked up a copy of a Time-Life picture book of the attacks on 9/11, and as I sat reading the book and looking at the pictures, a poem began to form in my head. I went upstairs to my office and put the words on paper (actually, on the computer screen). It was called “The Sky,” and to date it probably is my best poem, though I couldn’t read it at Open Mic because it’s a little too long.
I worked on a few more poems, though nothing as good as “The Sky.” But my reason for this blog is not to promote my works, but really twofold. One, to suggest that every writer should try his/her hand a poetry at least once in his/her life. Poetry is much more confining than prose. Poetry has rhyme, meter, foot, scansion, and a whole litany of words that describe the mechanics of the art. It takes more time than prose, and you have to stop and think about what you’re doing much more intently than with prose. It may take several hours to get one line or one rhyme. It forces you to look more carefully at what you’re writing and to choose your words more carefully and thoughtfully. If that carries over into your prose, so much the better. Prose doesn’t usually contain rhyme, but it frequently contains such poetic devices as alliteration, allusion, rhythm, onomatopoeia (look it up), and metaphor and simile. Putting those in prose can only make it better.
My second reason for blogging about poetry is to suggest that every writer should, at the very least, read poetry. Though I never became a poet, I do read the stuff, and my favorite poet is Edwin Arlington Robinson. Robinson lived from 1869 to 1935, and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry three times, an unusual achievement. Robinson’s poetry is very straightforward and easy to read and understand. His short poems may be only two or three stanzas, but the imagery is unconcealed. There may be a hidden message behind his works which may be more difficult to perceive, but if you read him (especially out loud) you may be able to see what he’s getting at.
One of his best known poems is “Richard Cory,” and I’m not going to repeat it here (you can probably find a copy online), but I frequently go back to it just to read it over and over. I’ve read it so many times I’ve got it memorized. Another poem of Robinson’s is “The Mill,” a poem which I used as an inspiration to write my short story “Mountains HIgh,” which you can find on this blog site (look for “Short Story”).
In short, don’t overlook poetry if you are doing any sort of writing, fiction or non-fiction. You can always learn something from the poet.