A surly western wind tugs the stubborn leaves that still cling to damp branches. Autumn already past her prime and the sullen sky swings low clouds, ghost gray harbingers of frigid days eminent. Hunkered down in fleece-lined solitude I seek respite from the cacophony of summer days that bleed to wild nights. My frenetic mind savors the surrender of swirling snow and quiet white winter.
I could have just told you that the cool thing about Michigan in November is that peeps put clothes on when it’s cold. That is if you consider plaid, beanies, and galoshes haute couture. But I’m a poet. Or at least that’s what my editor said the other day when she asked me to guest write because she was not the poetic expert and I am. Once again I suffer from snowflake syndrome. The only poet in a virtual room of novelists. Write about poetry she said. It’ll be fun. She said.
So what is poetry? Wikified it is: a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism and meter to evoke meanings in addition to or in place of the prosaic, ostensible meaning. A derivative of the Greek Poesis “to make or the activity in which a person brings something into being that did not exist before.” Prose, on the other hand, is “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.” And never the twain shall meet…
And so in the first paragraph, I, resident poet of RAD, thusly attempted a poetic intro to depict the outer and inner climate of my immediate surroundings and in the second paragraph I waxed prose-ish. Both styles have their place in writing. While prose is the norm in most works longer than a page, the clear concise and at times vague enough to superimpose one’s own situation over the words editor preferred prose style notwithstanding, poetry can still pack a powerful punch. And it’s fun for those of us who don’t just work with our words but like to play with them too. The danger with the poetic-prose mind meld, however, is a little thing called “on the nose” writing wherein the author creates a world so vivid; the reader has no room to imagine. I get in trouble for that. Often. Because in my poet heart, blue isn’t blue and red isn’t red. They are indigo and scarlet, powder and blush, cerulean and titian, denim and rose. They evoke the sorrow of maidens whose loves are lost to the waves and the joy of mothers whose babies giggle for the first time. Blue is breath and red the blood in the veins. Yes, tell me a story and poetry is the crescendo and diminuendo, the soundtrack over which the story flows. Prose without poetry is an apple without a shine. So sayeth the snowflake.
And by the way, those novelists with whom I’ve partnered whilst housed at RAD would tell you they are not poetic, but read them. They are brilliant wordsmiths who use every convention this poet uses. They are poets in the way the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad are poems. They tell stories.
As for me, I often write the simpler fluff. A lyric poem here. An angsty foam of free verse there. A gut punch of drops the mic slam style vitriolic bit. I love a story, but one or two pages loosely wrapped around a theme are more instant gratification and so I often write poems because I’m impatient and time constrained. And while a poem can tell a story, it often doesn’t have to tell the reader anything so there is no expectation beyond the savor or words on paper. And sometimes that is what we writers need the most is simply to get a couple of words on paper so we can gather momentum to write the story.
Yes, I am a literary addict and poetry is my gateway drug.
For those of you who endeavor, however, to augment your literary prowess with a pinch of poetic—the interwebs are rife with innumerable styles, from the spinal column snapping sestina (the equivalent of having your softest parts wrung viciously in a vice) to lovely haiku, to limericks or any bit of discipline or lack thereof. You don’t actually have to slap ‘em in a chapbook and publish them, but the simple act of exploring your poetic soul may serve to prime the creative pump and enable you to invigorate your prose. At the end of the day, writing is writing and unlike that bowl of Halloween candy, a taste or two of sweet alliteration or a slice of onomatopoeia isn’t going to go straight to your waistline. On the contrary. It is going to exercise your word muscles and we all need that.