Today I’d like to talk about writing a poem. I think this is the purest form of literary endeavor, because you are expressing something intensely personal. You are also not doing it for the money – I don’t know any poets who have made their fortunes this way. “Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity” is one description I have heard. Octavio Paz wrote: “Poetry is in love with the instant and seeks to relive it in the poem.” My very favourite description was by Roger White, who wrote “When life touches us, poems appear like bruises.”
I write poetry when I am so overcome with emotion, that this is the only way I can adequately express my feelings. Today’s poets are fortunate in having a wide range of options in which to structure their poems.
Free verse, without regular line length or metre can be used. The rhythm comes from natural speech pattern. When your poem is read aloud, you’ll develop pauses for breathing from the sense of the words. Once poems had to rhyme and although I occasionally do this, if I find it is too restrictive then I use free verse instead. When you are deciding which word to use. choose the one that carries the meaning, the feeling and the tone that the poem requires.
Recently I was asked to write a poem on the theme of memory – something that you can still remember from your childhood. Immediately my mind turned to a very strong emotion I had felt, and while I was writing the poem (which seemed to fall naturally into rhymed verse) I was again that little girl of nine, who longed to look like a beautiful princess, but could not achieve it. I called it:
DOWN MEMORY LAND
I can still remember
What my father used to say:
“There’s one more freckle on your nose
Than you had there yesterday!”
He didn’t mean to be unkind,
Hw thought it was a joke,
Not understanding when he said it
How quietly my heart broke.
I wanted to be a princess
With locks of golden hair,
But I was not a beauty
And life seemed so unfair.
“Beauty is as beauty does”
My mother used to say.
She didn’t understand my tears
And sent me out to play.
I brought home good reports from school –
It should have been enough;
They said that they were proud of me …
I thought it was a bluff.
Despite the fact I’m now mature
And have accomplished many things,
I think about that little girl
And the heartache that it brings.
How much it would have meant to me
Just once, if someone said,
Not how clever I’d become,
But how beautiful instead.
Thank you for all the lovely comments you’ve been leaving. Too many to answer them all individually, but I want you to know how much they mean to me. Until next time ….