When Poetry Comes Sailing In…

As a writer, I always assumed, since I struggled with words and sentences, with style and structure; since the beauty of prose eluded me as a beginning writer, that poetry would not be something I should dabble in.

Then, the last quarter of 7th grade, during our poetry unit, I needed to illustrate to many of my students that poetry was impulsive, untrained, rebellious, and emotional – that it could just happen with a “trigger” and the right frame of mind. And, by right frame of mind, I explained, I meant that students must be willing and open to follow that little voice inside all of us that when triggered or stimulated could take us places that would surprise even ourselves.

During this exercise, I asked students to think of a “trigger,” to give me a one word, so I could produce a poem from that one word. They all looked at each other with disbelief, but welcomed the challenge to see their teacher struggle with the task – or so they hoped i would. When they were done deciding – their elected volunteer called out “world” – and so our experiment began – I turned to face the whiteboard and wrote without thinking:

The World Today
The World Tomorrow
The World from Yesterday
The World that’s Yours
The World that’s Mine
The World that’s Ours
The World was here Before
The World will be here Again
The World is all around Us
The World is Us

That day, it was I who learned a lesson. Though, the students benefited from my display, I was surprised by the ease with which it had all come to me in a flash flood. No thinking. No questioning the next word or phrase. I just let one step of the poem take me to the natural progression of the next line. Not much regard for rhyme, repetition, similes or alliterations…I just let the hand move to the tune of poetry itself – no rules – just ideas, thoughts, concerns and feelings.

For months, I have been avoiding so many incredible narrative ideas, and have abandoned so many projects (some even just 2 or 3 chapters from completion) because I felt my prose lacked beauty, depth, all those things that make a piece of writing worthy of being read. And then, today, I woke up, picked up a pen and found an old small journal I bought in Paris summers ago. Instead of worrying about whether I could or not, instead of questioning whether I should or not, I put pen to paper and tried my hand at POETRY – less then 30 minutes later I had written 10 poems – ones I was not all together ashamed of – ones that, despite what literary critics will no doubt say, are pretty okay. More than okay, truth be told. These little gems are pretty good. I think from now on, I will be loyal to my newfound poetry calling and will share and post here (in an effort to share with the world – because good or bad, okay or mediocre, poetry isn’t meant to be filed away or left to collect dust in a drawer…it wants to be…begs to be freed…left to roam among the eyes, ears and minds of anyone who will pay attention…anyone open to its music…anyone answering its call!