April is National Poetry Month, which is a good opportunity for all of us to read and write more poetry, especially if we haven’t done so since grade school.
Poetry is the voice of the soul, and poets help us view the world in a way we might not have observed it before. They highlight details to cast a light on a feeling, an image, or an event.
Poetry is a genre of writing in which succinct, vivid, and intense language is given to feelings, images, and ideas. It is a snapshot written from the inside out.
Poetry is a free-flowing form of expression; and the best poems are created when we share feelings, observations, and images as they come to us.
Poetry is a powerful genre because reading and writing it makes us better writers. It fosters observational skills, because in order to write good poetry, we have to be tuned in to and accessing all of our senses.
Reading and writing a good poem can change our way of thinking about a particular subject. The poems that change us the most are those that touch us intimately. Writing and reading poetry can also be a springboard to growth, healing, and transformation and can help us deal with some of life’s most difficult situations. We can write about the past, present, and future while delving into personal issues and feelings, and tapping in to the universal messages that are revealed to us in the process.
Reading and writing poetry also encourages a certain interconnectedness and helps establish a sense of community between ourselves and others. This is particularly important these days. In other words, poetry can help us feel as if we’re part of a larger picture and not just living in our isolated little world. We learn that other people have traveled comparable journeys and have similar feelings about where they’ve been and where they’re going.
I am a writer of all genres, yet I always return to poetry. As a young girl, I remember having little poetry books that I slipped into my pocket or purse and pulled out to read for inspiration. I did so when I was feeling melancholy, or even just while waiting in the car as my parents ran errands. I can’t remember the names of all the poets I read back then, but Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman definitely come to mind. Reading poetry was a form of spirituality for me and provided a link to my subconscious mind. I wasn’t mature enough to recognize this at the time—but upon reflection, I realize that’s what was occurring.
Writing poetry moves us closer to our center of creativity and stimulates our right brain. It can also help us claim our authentic inner voice. The best thing we can do when writing poetry is to listen to that voice in our head. Because poetry is a succinct genre where every word counts, it teaches us how to be concise and get to the point. Also, when writing poems, it’s best to use as many details as possible, so it encourages us to create vivid images and metaphors.
Some people feel compelled to rhyme their poetry, but that’s unnecessary. Narrative poetry is the type most akin to memoir writing because it tells a story. To become a good poet, it’s important to read a lot of other poems for inspiration, as well as for ideas about structure. It’s also helpful to listen to poets reading their words aloud. After writing a poem, I suggest reading it out loud, because this is one way to tap in to the true inner voice and is also a way to ensure that the poem makes sense. And, it’s an effective editing method, because poetry was meant to be a spoken form.
Here are some prompts that are helpful when embarking on the poetry-writing journey:
1) Write a poem called “I Remember.” Recall a pivotal event from the past, and share the details of it in the poem. The reader should be able to relate to the words on a profound level.
2) Write a thoughtful and meaningful ode to a loved one.
3) In poetic form, write a letter of apology to someone.
4) Write a poem about a first boyfriend/girlfriend and the events that were memorable in that relationship.
5) Write a poem about someone who has passed away, and frame it within a present-day event that has triggered a memory of this person.
6) Write a poem about an unshared secret.
7) Describe a typical day in a poetic snapshot.
(Editor’s note: After writing them, send them to elephant journal!)
Author: Diana Raab, Ph.D
Image: Flickr/Denise Krebs
Editor: Travis May