“There once was a girl from Nantucket…”: why I write poetry

poet's pen

“There once was a girl from Nantucket…”

There are as many ways of self-expression as there are people…self-expressing. One can say something in many and varied ways. There, see? Unlike other, non-poetic forms of writing, poetry evokes rather than explains. Now, good prose also can do this. But, somehow, there is an economy of words and focus of emotion in poetry, a kind of escalator narrative that moves us up and down at will, that prose cannot seem to create in as neat and succinct a way. Prose tells the story of our life on paper. Poetry crunches up the paper and then makes sense of the wrinkles. Prose seeks to pull petals off the flower and, in deconstructing it, find it. Poetry imagines the soul of the flower and, in ways both sensory and direct, introduces us. Prose tells us how beautiful the flower is. Poetry tells the flower how beautiful we are. In a real sense, poetry is a flower, a kind of natural face given to the mystery of our being.

Poetry doesn’t take us from A to B. It asks why we even need B in the first place, or at least takes the longer, scenic route. Prose needs readers to engage with its detail and form. Poetry needs but to exist since it is both beauty and the suggestion thereof. It is an invitation not to read but to be read. “If a tree falls in the forest” is a question we ask ourselves. The poet shows how cool a silent tree really is. It is the art of words rather than the science of language. Moreover, the lucidity and dominance of its spatial, nuanced non-rhetoric leaves a big, front door through which those of us thirsty for something other than exactitude and definition may find our Narnia. A good narrative will give us the tale, the wardrobe, the place. Poetry helps us live the tale. Prose ushers us to turkey dinner at Grandma’s house. Poetry ushers us to Grandma whose heart was the crucible of love out of which came our dinner.

I write poetry because, for me, it is prayer. It allows extreme right-brained thinkers like myself to engage with words in more dancelike fashion, treating them more like lovers than telemarketers. I can simply close my eyes and, through the mystery of my subconscious, knit to God’s own being, walk through the veil of here to there without having to explain why or even how I got there. Poetry is perfect for people who can’t figure things out but for whom the things are just as cool unfigured out. Mystery wins every time.

If you had no idea what the hell I just wrote, you’re not quite ready for poetry…just yet.

Photo: www.blog.ted.com

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