Just for the aesthetics, I think everyone who is a reader, which should be everyone even though it's not, should learn how to read poetry. Not the new stuff, either. I mean really learn to read poetry. I'm fairly convinced that learning to read poetry broadens our minds to the beauty of language, saying things elegantly, and allows us expand upon the types of things that we read. I'm sorry, but I don't care if you read 500 books last year if 498 of them were romance or light fantasy. That's the equivalent of only eating candy. Okay, I'm not really sorry. None of which is to say that you need to always be reading poetry; I don't spend a lot of time with poetry anymore, but I used to, which is part of why I don't spend so much time with it, now, because, as I've said numerous times, I'm not much on re-reading.
There are also some great stories that ought to be experienced in the language and form they were written in as much as possible. Thinks like Beowulf and Gilgamesh. Heck, I've even read Le Morte d'Arthur, and, my gosh, there is so much more there than in any modern interpretations of Malory. Not that I'm suggesting that everyone run out and buy a copy of Malory, because, man, that was a tough read, and it took me a year to get through it. The point is that we miss so much by just discounting older, poetic works.
But writers... well, I don't really understand why any writer would discount poetry, especially classical poetry, as something not worthwhile to, at least, read. To be a good writer, a writer must write, but a writer must also read, and the more broadly the writer readers, the better his writing grows. Poetry is certainly not something that should be discounted just because it's poetry.
Of course, I think authors should also write poetry. And I don't mean author's should write prose in verse form and call it free verse, either. Authors can only benefit from learning the structure and flow of poetry and practice at writing it. It's like a football player taking ballet, and I don't think you'll find any that have done that who will tell you that it was a waste of time. Personally, I think the sonnet works best, because it has such a rigid structure. If you can write a sonnet, you can write anything.
And, no, I'm not much of a poet. I tried for a good long time at it though. Back when I was 15 or so, I had it stuck in my head that you couldn't be a "real" writer unless you wrote poetry. That was the dividing line between being a "writer" and being a "real writer." But, then, teenagers always have strange ideas. I wrote a lot of poetry back then. All of it bad. I probably still have it packed away somewhere, but I don't think I'd want to read about 99% of it. I focused on poetry early on in college, too, until one of my professors famously told me, "This is great prose, but it's lousy poetry," a statement that really opened my eyes to everything that I've been talking about in these posts about how poetry is not (and can not be) just prose written in verse form.
So, yeah, from time to time, I play with poetry. I have sonnets. And, at some point, I'll share some of them. I have some project notes for some more substantial pieces of poetry, too, but poetry requires a lot of time and effort on my part, that whole what is stressed and what is not is really difficult for me, always has been, so I end up pushing those projects down the list in favor of things I can finish more quickly. But, so as not to leave you empty-handed and to prove that, yes, I stand by what I'm saying here, I'll give you a sample of something I wrote a few years ago. Right before I started House, I think. Or, maybe, right after I started it. A few years ago, at any rate. No explanations this time, because it's always better to see how the reader interprets these things rather than just spelling it out, but I might be willing to answer some questions, depending upon what they are, if anyone has any.
The Dissolution of Love
The snow fell hard and heavy the day we
met, covering over that old empty
field. Filling in the holes, hiding the roots
and broken glass from our crunching boots.
The snow grew deep, blanketing all in white
and hiding all that was wrong from our sight.
In this pristine place, we would meet and play
in the field of snow until the day
was gone. And the days, they passed, and the snow
continued to fall and deepen and grow.
Until one day, we did decide to make
a snowman and, on this, put all at stake.
So we set to work upon the base
piling up the snow with all due haste.
Upon this base we placed the body that
Together we rolled into being, patting
the snow down hard and firm. Then the head
settled at last upon the top and wed
to the body below. Now complete but
for the details. Two rocks for eyes we put
upon the face and then for the nose and
mouth we added more. Our gloves for the hands,
we each gave one, joining our naked palms
to keep them warm. Our hearts, as one, grew calm
as we placed our last tokens: my hat, your
scarf. In our knowledge that all was secure,
we walked away to other things, other
pursuits, sure that our snowman would be safe.
Hand-in-hand, enjoying one another,
we left him alone like a long lost waif.
Forgotten, he stayed as we went on our
way, until we reached a time when joined hands
became a burden. So in that hour
we returned to where our lonely man stands
and retrieved our gloves so that we could act
independently. One eye, we found, had
fallen loose. Recognizing, then, the fact
that left alone he would not last, in gladness
we made a vow to watch over him
together. But quickly tiresome that chore
grew and, so, we forsook that very whim
and the promise that would have held us more
tightly bound together. Alone we left
him, once again, to brave the coming storm.
The rains and winds came as he stood bereft
of care and then the sun to rob his form.
The sun, more frequently, would show its eye,
driving back the snow and breaking the frost
that held the little field in grip. The sky,
cleared to blue, loosed its wind and winter lost
its battle. With no snow left to hold us,
we parted ways without a backward glance
for our poor creation. The wind’s last gust
lost my hat. Your scarf left, muddied, to dance
in the wind, caught in the last patch of snow --
the dirty heap of snow left behind from
our joint endeavor. But how could we know
that this would be all that that would become?
copyright 2013 Andrew Leon
copyright 2013 Andrew Leon