Poetry Makes Nothing Happen

The Nature of Poetry

When I began to write, the first question to which I needed to find an answer was “What is a poem?”  This is a question to which there is no easy answer and early feedback to my earnest efforts sometimes included a comment such as “But is this really a poem?”

There are still a number of people whose first response to such a question will be that the lines must rhyme.  A curious answer because there is a long tradition of non-rhyming poetry.  Rhyme is still used by some, often in   a less obvious way than was once common, but there is no reason to see it as the important defining feature of poetry.  

As I began to write my own poems, I looked at statements made by good poets about what poetry meant to them and I found a wealth of enlightening material.

Miroslav Holub:  Poetry is energy; it is an energy-storing and energy-releasing device.

Dana Gioia:         Poetry is the art of using words charged with their utmost meaning.

 Brendan Kennelly:       Good poems are flashes of light in the darkness of the heart and mind.

 A poem must feel as though it needs to be written, Esther Morgan

once advised me when commenting on lines I had written which were prompted by a  workshop exercise.  It was, I had felt at the time of writing, an interesting exercise, but it sparked off very few original ideas and writing had not come easily.  A poem which comes naturally, where ideas bounce back, surprise you by the connections they make with ideas and experiences that are central to your thinking, lead to an interesting conclusion which is still not, the reader senses, the final answer.

Starting to Write

I can  remember writing only one poem before I was in my mid-fifties (although perhaps I should count in a limerick I wrote when I was around 12 years old).  I thought that my five lines were     rather witty, but feedback was not favourable.  Nobody understood the punchline. 

At the age of eight, I had had a furious reaction from my mother when I had shown her my first attempt to write a poem.  She was a very ambitious woman but her ambitions did not extend to her daughters.

For decades, I dared not risk a third attempt.  I read a great deal but various traumatic or life changing events happened at the same time and I began to rethink.  My brother disappeared.  Both my daughters married.  By chance, I found a good correspondence course where I could learn, get feedback while being the Anonymous Bad Poet.

Poetry came in late but it altered my life entirely.

Poets and their poems

Assembling a collection of poems is one of the most interesting parts of the process.  I suspect that a writer’s initial understanding of the poems will usually develop and change over time just as a reader's understanding of the poetry of others will grow with re-readings.  For even if the poems themselves are not revised, the world around us is changing fast and new light is cast on what we have written.  

Also, when poems are published and there is reader response, there are other views to consider.   The poem is independent once it is online or in print, although I admit that I cut the final verse of one of my better poems after it was published and shortlisted for a prize awarded by the UK Poetry Society.  It is the shorter version of At Golden Bay which appears in Giotto’s Circle. 

 The placing of poems within a collection needs to be a carefully thought out process, each poem resonating with the preceding and subsequent one.  It is usually at this time that the greatest discoveries are made.  When reading or listening to poetry, there can be rewards not only in the individual poem but in the impact of the whole.

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18.02 | 20:17

cont. felt we were sharing it with you.
Best wishes and thanks for your poems. Liz

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04.11 | 01:10

I love these poems more and more as I read them again and again. For me there are elements of Japanese Haiku in some of her poems. Diana Brodie is so talented.

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