Poetry For Yourself
Poetry has an odd position in the hierarchy of creative media. It’s too personal and intense to be an instrument of mass exposure. How many famous poets are there? Five? Ten? Who comes to mind? Mary Oliver. Of course.
So why do you write poetry? Asking that question is like asking “Why do you fall in love?” You just do…because the love is in you, wanting to get out. It’s a way of falling in love with yourself. Having created something beautiful, you sit back and think…”Oh..did I do that? Where did it come from? Did I channel it from some ethereal spirit?” Sometimes the poems we write seem to belong to independent spirits. They are alien and strange.
Ghost voices grow
like weaving spires in the corridor of the night.
Stalactites of moonlight,
they hum and fade
through the wake of other minds.
A sheet of star rain glinting light,
a mist of moon- heat lost from sight
these spectral hints emerge
from the night floor in the dark.
Silver waving plants recede forever
in a song of twinkling echoes.
Ghost voices, shadow worlds
arise and converse
while my sleep waits beyond the hills,
If I wrote that it would be evidence that I am certifiably nuts. It must be read carefully, like drinking a fabulous milkshake one mouthful at a time. Poetry can be a vessel for deadly serious topics, or it can offer room for comedy.
There’s shit on my shoes;
cat shit, dog shit, I hope that’s all shit.
Every step I take I risk stepping in shit:
Is this not life? There’s nothing wrong with shit.
We need it, like we need bugs
to nourish with its noxious stink the most natural growth.
This poo is for you, it says, as I wipe it off my shoe
with futile hope of avoiding my hands, then washing
again and again. How often in a day do I inwardly exclaim,
More than I would admit.
My mind is full of bricks, pies and purges.
Cats, dogs, owls, horses, all shit. People shit,
the cosmos excretes Dark Matter on these very shoes
which I try so hard to keep clean. Many are obsessed
with the minuscule taint of e.coli. Why should I bother to say
“Relax, we are exposed to e.coli and far worse
every day. We are sturdy,
knocking off shits and bugs heroic, undaunted
by the invisible stools of imagination?”. Instead I spread this blessing:
“You must be crazy in whatever way you want.”
Not every disease is preventable, nor is every affliction brought on board
by the shit on our shoes. When you stroke the cat, the dog, the horse
your hands investigate bacteria, resist infection.
After all, shit is the most common thing in the world.
I’ll be honest. “Shit” is one of the best poems I’ve ever written. I think. I always feel that way about my latest poem. It’s got rhythm and it makes people laugh. What’s better than that?
I know, I’m taking up a lot of space, and I think I’ve posed enough questions. No matter how personal a matter is poetry, its importance is immense. It is filled with our most private introspection. If others read it, so much the better. I didn’t write these things to live in the dark. Some day they may find an audience. Meanwhile, I offer them for the pleasure of a small number of readers who may enjoy them.
A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good. His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv.
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Recently, I was told, “it’s all about the story”. If you believe that – and I do – that makes the writer’s job a very important one. It is the job of the writer to get the story out. More importantly, it is the writer’s job to tell the story the way that it wants to be told, and that is no small task. Without the right words, we don’t stand a chance.
English teachers and editors can tell you the rules. They can make sure that you have proper sentence structure and syntax; that your grammar and punctuation are correct in every way. But, writers know that the real trick is in knowing when the rules apply, and when it might be better to overlook them.
Writers are challenged with word choices every day, and it is a challenge to have to select just the right words. Writers must choose words that will state what we want to say in a clear or concise manner, while at the same time drawing readers in and compelling them to read on. Above and beyond that though, we are charged with the task of putting words to page that will stir emotion within readers – touching, inspiring, shocking, or tantalizing.
We are challenged to not only find the words, but also to put them in an order that will set the right tone and pace, and present a clear picture for the reader. The words we choose portray our characters and settings in a manner that allows readers to form a mental picture of what we are describing, thus bringing the reader into the story with us. Our words and the way we put them to the page also set the tone and mood, intensifying reader experience. The point is, that as writers we make choices every day that affect the shape of the story, as well as the outcome, and a gazillion events that occur as the plot unfolds. Without words, there is no story, and the writers are the ones that choose the words.
It is all about the story and often, stories just don’t care about the rules. For instance, to write realistic dialog that will be believable for the reader, you may not always have complete sentences. When we talk, we do not always use complete sentences, and dialog that is written in complete sentences may come out sounding very stiff and formal. Unless your characters are members of nobility during the seventeenth century, the dialog may not seem natural. Your dialog needs to fit your character.
I recently discovered what it’s like to have one of my characters speak to me, something I had heard of, but didn’t really understand. Now I do, and let me tell you, my character, a woman of the old west, did not speak in complete sentences. In fact, she did not even pronounce some of her words properly. Because her background and upbringing, that is the way she talks, and to portray her on the page in any other way, would be dishonest to my readers, and disrespectful of my character’s essence.
In addition to choosing the right words for our characters, we must choose words that our readers will comprehend and relate to; words that are right for the setting of the story; words that express the true character of our characters. We must sequence them so that the story moves at a pace that is fast enough to keep the reader’s attention, but not so fast that we leave them behind.
It is obvious that words are powerful. As it happens, words are the tools of the writer’s trade. Words are what gives us power. Just as the way a ruler welds his power determines whether he is loved or despised by his people, the way we weld ours determines whether we are good writers or bad, and whether anyone actually wants to read our writing. So, choose your words carefully and weld your power wisely.