|Nothing inspires poetry writing like poetry reading!|
Prompts will abound this National Poetry Month, and mostly they will be of the "write a poem about such-and-such a topic" variety. Those prompts can be frustrating sometimes, since they don't actually help with that tricky, actual "poem-ing." It's pretty straightforward to write about a topic from a factual point of view, but how do we end up with a poem-sort-of-thing at the end? How do we get to that place inside that makes poetry - that "Poetic Brainplace?" (and yes I said 'brainplace' not 'brainspace' because I like the way it sounds.)
How do we turn this:
"Life decisions can be difficult to make under any circumstances, but particularly when you don't have much information about the material differences between your choices up front, or the consequences that will result later. We expect that regret or second-guessing will somehow be inevitable no matter what we choose. Even so, we can't avoid making those decisions, and facing those consequences."
(Excerpt from "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost)
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I believe that part of the challenge is that poetry comes from a very different part of the brain than almost any other thing we do or think about. It somehow uses words to bypass words, to bypass our higher thinking, and suddenly presents truth with immediate conviction. We don't even really need to understand what the poem 'means' to access that truth, that knowing, that sudden sense of "ahhhh" that somehow uses words to talk to places inside of us that formed before language.
There is, as I see it, only one sure-fire way to enter and abide in that particular "poetic brainplace," and that is by reading poetry. And note, it does not take much reading at all to move you from your "today I have to clean the bathroom, write a report, and take my vitamins" brianplace into the poetic brainplace. A single phrase can do it - but the more you read it, the easier it gets to write it. And note, once you start reading poetry, well, it feels like feeding a part of yourself that's always been hungry.
So this month I'm going to provide little jump-starts for you that will take only 5 to 7 minutes each. They will include reading a short poem or excerpt, and then a suggestion or two for using that as a portal inside your own poetic brainplace. Once there, whatever prompt you choose for the day will resonate much more clearly inside, and hopefully, poetry will flow!
Ok here we go, a post a day, so read on!
Image: Public Domain, Lady Reading Poetry