"Putting on the Game Face"
|When I first started writing it was poetry. I really liked Rudyard Kipling. My favorite was Gunga Din.
As my writing began to mature I got into writing Stage Plays. Shakespeare was my guide. I really liked iambic pentameter.
Then my interest shifted to writing novels. I carried over experience in poetry and the stage. Sound resonance remained a part of my writing style. The words obviously needed to show and tell, but they also needed to resonate... you know, sound right.
Sometimes when I dream there is a common theme, which is the rhythmic, metered, rhyming of a poem. I see myself struggle to integrate the three into a compatible string of language symbols. Now days I realize that most poets like free verse. That's fine with me, and if that form and style gives a poet pleasure then I'm all in on it, as long as it's someone else doing the crafting. When I read free verse it's like listening to "Stream of Conscious" prose. It often makes no sense and leaves me non-pulsed. Nothing seems to stir inside when I read it.
Writing poetry that is structured, rhythmic and rhyming is hard to do. The form requires concentration, and the knack for keeping several balls in the air at the same time. It harkens to a primordial past where chants, percussion instruments and dance once performed for the spirit the way that current media focuses on the eyes and our conscious awareness.
Edith Hamilton said that Pindar was the greatest poet who ever lived but gave strong praise to Kipling. Since I can't read Greek I'm left with my old pal Rudyard. Reading his Barrack Room Ballads, one is struck with the beauty as it comes together with a seeming effortless grace. Unfortunately, Kipling wrote in the language of his times and that language is no longer "Politically Correct." Simply stated he used the "N" word and modern educators are taken aghast. They call him a racist and a bigot... but that is absolute bull.
If you read Gunga Din, you'll see what I'm talking about. Within the context is a Non Commissioned Officer (NCO), doing the poetic rendition, and this guy represents a particularly irreverent and down to earth class of soldiers. The poem is about an NCO, shot in battle and tended by an Indian water-boy, from the lowest of India's casts. In the course of events the water boy is shot and killed. In the end the Sergeant makes the claim that this "low life" Gunga Din is a better man than he is. How can that be viewed as "Racist." Sounds like pretty high praise, considering the source. Yet Kipling has been consigned to the dust bin of history for using the language of his times. You won't find his work in any grammar school textbooks in the United States today. I was blessed being raised in more tolerant and enlightened times and thrilled to reading Kipling, who told stories in a poetic form, that is all but lost to us today. I used to go into my favorite pub and recite his work to a hushed and delighted audience. It remains as powerful now as it was then, if you take a bit of license transposing some of the more shocking words into bloodless liberal prose.
So where is this going? I can only speak for myself. Learning from an early age the difficulty of this form forced me to relate ideas while keeping three balls in the air at the same time. I consider myself a poor practitioner but the discipline of the exercise became a valuable asset. Some of my critics have disparagingly called me a wannabe Dr. Seuss. For me this comparison is high honor. What is interesting is that this form requires a poet to twist and convolute the structure of language in a way that is the anthesis of free thought. Free Verse appears to me as the first gobbledegook that comes into a poet's mind. What happens in structured poetry is that the thought can't escape the poet's mind until it meets the criteria of the form. This leads the poet away from an obvious expression and into dimensions they would otherwise never consider. It is almost like relinquishing control of your mind to the influence of cosmic forces beyond ourselves. You can express yourself using your own lens or allow the flow of an outside influence to help guide your narrative.