Monday, March 23, 2020

That Poetry Moment

I always preface poetry posts by saying that I am not a poet; at least I don't consider myself one. I have written poems, and some say that is enough to earn the title. However, poetry requires a special touch, the element that separates drawings from art, singing from a vocalist, and activity from an athlete. This post will discuss just what that touch is, and how to nurture it along. Even if your goal is not to be a poet, it is applicable to any creative process.

A little backstory: I always liked to write, but as little more than a hobby. My calling, my passion was (and still is) for numbers. The straight-line predictability and sturdiness of an equation always intrigued me. No matter what my mood was, 2x+4y=9 would always solve to the same, simplistic line. In a chaotic world, that was comforting. However, that did very little when it came to the part of me that needed to resolve those emotional entanglements known as my life.

And now to college - the most tumultuous time of my life. I had packed my entire existence into the backseat of my car and went to college with no home to return to if I failed. Make or break time. My major would either be statistics or operations research (I eventually went for both), but I still had those electives. I took a communications course discussing the great plays, and read Ibsen, Strindberg, Miller and so forth, all while trying to tell myself this would somehow help me be a better statistician, actuary, or economist. A hard sell indeed.

One night, after a fun time reading Death of A Salesman while drinking gin and listening to disc 1 of Pink Floyd's The Wall, that moment found me. With my stress at full boil, a little alcohol buzz pushing away my inhibitions, and still very much in the rhythm of the song, Nobody's Home, I scribbled down a poem. It wasn't beautiful, it wasn't lightning in a bottle. However, it was the first poem I had written that was not an assignment. I wrote it because it needed to come out and I was just enough into a place where that could happen. So it happened.

The other day I came across that very sheet of paper in my college files. As I read it, I half-expected to do that thing where a writer reads an old work and says, "Pfeh! Why did I think this was good?" Nope. Not this time. True, it wasn't perfect. However, it captured the poetry moment. It took that frame of emotional tension and poured those feelings onto the page. Unrefined, without any doctoring or rationalization, these words spoke straight to my turbulent time in that dorm room.

That poem was the poetry moment.

When we write, we often take an idea and play it out with our many writing tools and creative influences. The difficult part can be maintaining that inspiration throughout. With poetry, we can focus on that one feeling and make it dominate the page. This, however, requires that feeling to enter our mind, fill our heart (or whatever) to the point of overflowing, and then spill across the page, unfiltered, unpasteurized, no added sugars or preservatives.

Emotions are powerful and at times terrifying and dangerous. We shy away from them more than we care to admit. However, if we, as writers, can muster up the courage to confront them and capture them in the safe housing of a sheet of paper, we will feel that poetry moment.

And when it comes to gaining courage, of course, I recommend gin.

2 comments:

  1. I didn't know that college was your first collision with poetry.

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    1. I had run into poetry many times before -- as assigned work. The emotional cyclone known as college was the first time I decided without any sense of obligation to take on poetry.

      I should thank that cyclone someday.

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