by Lynn H. Blackburn
(I’m afraid the only way to explain it would involve writing a poem…It’s a slippery slope).
Hey—I saw you reach for the mouse. Don’t you dare skip this post because you don’t like poetry. Stay with me.
I’m not a poet. I don’t play one on TV. I haven’t studied poetry since I aced my British Lit class in 1993. (I’ll do the math for you. It’s been 20 years. 20 years? Please excuse me while I hyperventilate . . . )
Okay. I’m back.
Despite my lack of expertise, I believe poetry is important, especially for writers.
(I saw that finger twitch…no scrolling away until you let me explain).
Consider for a moment the very first words we read to infants…Nursery Rhymes, Mother Goose, Dr. Suess. All poetry.
We recognize that poetry helps young brains grasp the rhythm and flow of language.
It makes sense that it would have a similar affect on grown up brains. So why is it that the aspiring writer, someone longing to master the rhythm and flow of language, would avoid poetry?
My guess is that it’s because by the time we finish school, we perceive poetry to be either childish or highbrow and we relegate it to the “things I will NEVER use again” pile.
You may not need to be able to explain iambic pentameter again, but don’t you long for every word you write to matter? For each phrase to have an impact? For there to be nothing wasted?
A good poem meets all those requirements and more.
For myself, I never gave poetry much thought until I started writing.
Now, I find the more I write, the more I appreciate the clever uses of metaphor and the tightness of the wordplay. I’ve been surprised to discover that a beautifully crafted poem can stir something in me that I can’t quite explain.
You know to be a great writer you need to read—a lot—in your genre and out of it. If you want to add poetry to the mix, here are a few suggestions:
- Read the Psalms, and remember that Psalms is a book of poetry. Ponder the imagery. Pay attention to the emotions evoked by the repetition of phrases.
- Go the library. What better way to try poets and see which ones resonate with you? Check out an anthology and see what happens.
- Ask your friends. I asked my Facebook friends who their favorite poets were. Based on their suggestions, I’m exploring a book of poems by Billy Collins and an anthology of American poetry.
- Check out Poets.org for information on National Poetry Month. They even have an email subscription service that sends one poem a day to your inbox.
- Give it a chance. This isn’t high school English. You get to choose what you read. Explore until you find the good stuff.
So, let’s hear it. How do you feel about poetry? Who are your favorite poets? What are your favorite poems? Are you willing to give poetry a chance?
Don’t forget to join the conversation!
Out of the Boat. Lynn is a member of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and the Word Weavers, Greenville. She lives in South Carolina where she hangs out with three lively children, one fabulous man, and a cast of imaginary characters who find their way onto the pages of her still unpublished novels. She drinks a lot of coffee.