Poetry challenges my mind, heart and fingers.
It gives all the writing muscles a work out.
Growing up, I wrote poetry all the time, and I was accepted to the S.C. Governor’s School of the Arts primarily for my poetic writing. At age fifteen I was not able to formulate stories like I do now. My fiction teacher told me I wrote great beginnings and endings. An aunt advised me when I was 19 to live life before I became an author.
In a way, they were both write. I lived a lot, and I wrote about it through a poetry collection. I wrote the earliest poems in Fractured Snowflakes beginning in 2007. The manuscript grew up as a sibling to Sons of the Edisto. I have spent less time on Fractured Life, because the writing is tough and there were not enough poems.
I do not like writing about many personal situations I’ve experienced, yet they end up on the page. The words reveal more than I want. The poems work my mind for words and sentence structure.
I tried to turn off the fiction side of my brain. When I look at poets Carl Sanburg and Josephine Dickinson, they tell stories in their poems. Likewise, Khaled Hosseini transforms fiction with prose poetry.
“It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.” ― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Since beginning Fractured Lives, I realized –without intending to – I wrote prose poetry. My lines were shorter than you think a prose poem would be, but poems like Bad Economics, A Blue Ridge Tale and The Tumor told the story of falling in love while married, pregnancy, a family turning its back and the economic struggle of a family.
I have edited the manuscript on and off for one year. I’ve put poems in and taken poems out. I eliminated lines I thought were corny or too twenties’ angst. Then I realize my poetic muscles are flexing. They’ve been training, but I did not realize it.
While I’ve met fiction authors and poets, I believe a poet can write fiction and a fiction author can write poetry. Carl Sandburg did. What makes a successful contemporary poem?
Read your favorite authors and write even if it’s not what you want.
Good poetry requires time. It’s like a good whiskey. To me, you need to let the poems stay in a barrel . Go back with fresh eyes to look at them later. Writing a series of prose poems develops differently than a novel.
Are they a series of slightly connected poems?
Do they tell an ongoing story the way a book does?
What story does it tell?
I could answer none of those questions when I began compiling the poems I thought were my best years ago. I wrote many poems about what I went through, but some were nothing more than bleeding on the page. That is not going to work for a literary press. So, I waited. When my eyes became more mature, I found the poems, which told stories.
Part of endurance is separating yourself from poetry because when it’s written with fresh, raw emotion, you must wait until the anger, sadness or happiness have quelled. Return with editor eyes.
Do you expect six-pack abs after years of working out? Perhaps, but you know your body is different. Your physical and mental journey reveals your own story. When I work out, it gives me spiritual completion. At one time, I worked out to stay physically in shape and because I enjoyed being outside. Now it offers a spiritual completion.
A series of poems works the same way. At first, you’re uncertain if you have connected poems within one poem. It grows larger, and you have what is called a chapbook.
At first, I did not have enough poems to form a chapbook. On average, I write seven poems a year. From those seven, I like three of them. I chose not to stuff my collection with okay poems.
Last year, it became too large for a chapbook and turned into a poetry collection. A poetry collection is a larger manuscript. It was nonfiction. It was an interpretation of everything that happened. The collection told a story.
When I wrote the first poem Gray Jacket, it was nothing more than a love poem for my first husband when we dated. We wore gray jackets the day I left England to back pack around Europe. We joked on the phone about the similarities of our jackets, and I wrote the poem.
You never know what will spark a poem or a collection which tells a larger story.
Poems previously posted from the collection:
By Rebecca T. Dickinson
- Poetry and Prose (maggiemendus.wordpress.com)