May and June, for me, have been poetry months. I’ve spent a fair amount of my free time with poetry, reading, writing, and thinking about it. It’s not that I haven’t been interested in poetry before. Throughout my life, I’ve jotted down poetry in many forms, whether those hockey limericks in elementary school or those silly poems I come up with for my nephew and nieces birthday cards or poems I write for my wife and daughter. But these two months I’ve thought about poetry a lot more explicitly. The writing I’ve been doing has been a combination of revisiting old poems and writing new ones.
One unexpected delight has been taking a stab at some minimalistic poetry. Part of me revolts against this idea, but its actually a lot of fun and really makes you think long and hard about the mechanics of writing and forces you to sharpen your thoughts to a crisp edge. It’s actually harder than you would think to make an interesting, significant poem in three lines!
Fans of minimalistic poetry may be interested to know that the intentionally low-brow Three Line Poetry journal has accepted a couple of my three line poems which will appear in volumes 14 and 15 (available online, Kindle and Paperback currently being worked on). One of the poems is about a particular species of tree I am fond of. The other is about the town I live in.
I’ve learned a few things over the last couple of months:
- I’m a poet. By that, I DON’T mean a noteworthy poet nor a talented poet nor a vocational poet. I am a total amateur in the lowest sense of the word. I just mean that I love writing poems, it is a very natural way of expression for me, and I find myself doing it frequently.
- I really like tinkering with words and sentences. If you don’t love this, poetry would become a chore. It’s amazing how a few minor revisions can change the emphasis and effect of a poem. I don’t pretend to have mastered this art, though.
- I think some poets take themselves too seriously. There is a lot of elitism and tribalism in the poetry world. Some even think “the masses” shouldn’t be allowed to read poetry or that there should be a quota of poets per country!!! Though I’m probably not talented enough to come close to “elitism”, I emphatically want to avoid anything that even smells close to that. That is not to say, though, that we shouldn’t aim for high standards of excellence! (Avoiding elitism and tribalism is not an excuse for doing shabby work, thinking all forms and styles are equal, or whitewashing bad poetry, etc.)
- I can’t get fired up at all about the various tribal wars about style and form. I’m happy to dabble in reading and writing various forms and am happy to ignore the mud being slung between these borders. If you think free verse is bad, or rhyming is bad, or minimalistic poetry is bad, or sonnets are silly, or what not, fine. But don’t expect everyone else to follow your dislikes!
- Unless you are Billy Collins or Maya Angelou, you won’t earn a living with poetry–so don’t write it out of drudgery. If you do, you’ll bore others and yourself too.
- If you are going to send your poems to journals or try to get a poetry book published, brace yourself for lots of rejections and long spells of waiting. Even poet laureate types will have more rejects than accepts in their life time.
- I’ve rarely met a poem that was too short (providing it is interesting and conveys what the poet wants to), but many that were too long.
- I still don’t have a favorite poet. Currently, though, The Tyger by William Blake is my favorite poem.
- The idea of reading my poem to a stranger (or having a stranger read my poem audibly) sounds terrifying!