There is poetry in everything if we look carefully.
| Here are a couple of the grievances from newbie poets: “I love poetry, but I don’t know what to write.” “I have difficulty thinking of a subject.” |
To them I say, “Poetry is everywhere, and there is poetry in everything. Start from where you are. Write about the chair you sit on, the computer screen you face, or your desk lamp and its light bulb that flickers.”
A few decades ago, when I was in junior high school, we had an art teacher with a mantra. She made us say it out loud in the beginning of each class, and she said it repeatedly throughout the period. “See beauty; create beauty.” Years later, I found myself applying her mantra to life. “See life; create life."
As such, life is poetry as poetry can be life.
One major flaw is the obsession to write about big ideas, intangible subjects, like regret, love, hate, passion, greed etc. One can write about those things, for sure. That has been done in the past, and it is being done by the contemporary poets, too; however, real masters write about insignificant objects while they imply a bigger picture. Read William Carlos Williams and you’ll see how he takes one object, and without saying it in so many words, he hints at the universe.
Since the classics sometimes dealt with lofty subjects with a lofty language, a person with poetry in his soul may incline to emulate that. That is understandable. Poetry does that to a person: it enlarges the soul and gives it wings. Yet, to really soar, a poet needs to take off from the ground.
Around us, so many objects abound to write about. Once a poet starts with a smallest, most trivial object, he’ll discover that his pen will spill out what is most delicate or most majestic hidden inside him.
A favorite poet of mine said the poets are the biggest liars. As much as I adore her poetry, I couldn’t disagree more. In my opinion, poets are the sincerest people who tell the truths hidden inside other truths.
Take a discarded candy wrapper, for example. Can you see the truth in it? How did it become a wrapper? What kind of candy was in it? How did it become discarded? Did it feel anything? What does the poet feel while looking at it?
Poets can generate many poems from everyday actions, also. Have you ever watched children at play? Robert Service said, in June 1914 while he was in Luxembourg, “On a late afternoon, when the sunlight is mellow on the leaves, I often sit near the Fontaine de Medicis, and watch the children at their play. Sometimes I make bits of verse about them…”
Billy Collins wrote a memorable poem that started with the image of his wife exercising in open air. When it was all said and done, the poem ended up being about the poet and not so much about the wife.
Baudelaire has a poem “The Snake That Dances”; while reading it, you feel the movement of the snake through the poet's words. Then, at the end of the poem, the snake reminds Baudelaire of a vessel for his wine. There have been quite a few interpretations made of this poem: some risqué, others quite different. In any case, the poet concentrated on one action, and from it, so many diverse meanings have poured out.
If you want to write poetry and do not know where to begin, create your own inspiration. Look around you. Take a little object or an action; let it guide you. You may not become the poet laureate of the year, but you’ll find that writing poetry will elevate your spirit and will grant you an x-ray vision into life.