LESSON 26

I once had a student, a young woman in her thirties, who responded to the poetry prompt, “Why do you write poetry” with the following line: “I write because I lack the talent to paint.”  A very honest answer to be sure.  She wrote poetry, though her first choice for a way of expressing herself, would have been through the art of painting.  But, as she said, she had not the talent for it.

We all write for different reasons and, the same reason.  We write because we’re happy or sad, because we’re lonely or afraid, because we are needy or need to give, because we wish to speak our truth or, our lies.  But, in the end, most of us who write poetry do so because, we have no choice.  Poetry is in us, a part of us, and when it comes to full term, it must be birthed – brought out into the light of day.

But just because we need to write doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility to write well.  I receive so many “poems” that are not poems at all but rather, statements of feelings or facts or random thoughts.  Poetry to be poetry MUST adhere to the rules of poetry.  I know I’ve said it before but, it must be restated so that everyone who wishes to write poetry understands, poetry is unique unto itself and cannot be masquerading as poetry when it really is just you, speaking out loud, on the page!

Let me give you some simple examples of thoughts that can become poetry (word pictures):

I am in love…

becomes

I am a yellow rose opening to the caress of the sun…

I am so very angry…

becomes

I am lightning threatening to obliterate the trees…

I am alone…

becomes

The sun sets over the mountains and the meadow melts into shadow…

My student who said she wrote poetry because she had no talent for painting was, in a way, wrong.  If you are a good poet, you paint, not with brushes and acrylic, but with words and what you paint, becomes as real as any painting ever committed to canvas.

Writing poetry must be a calling, not a conscious choice because, the need to write is beyond your control and when you write, you agree to sacrifice a bit of yourself for the good of the poem.

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