Sad Poetry

Today I was in a really good mood and wanted to write a poem. I expected it would somehow reflect my mood, but instead it turned out to be sad. After reading it to my suite mates I bemoaned that I could only ever write sad poetry – or at least, only ever write good poems that were laced with melancholy. My one friend said that she preferred poems like that, because they seemed more real, whereas happy poems tended to seem too unrealistic and optimistic. This same friend is a self proclaimed cynic, which probably effects her opinions, but when I tried to think of all of my own favorite poems, this rang true.

Poetry isn’t sad by nature, but I don’t think poetry is inherently happy, either.  I know that growing up, I would write when I was in a bad mood, and most likely accidentally trained myself to only write sad poems. So how can I un-train myself / still be able to write well in a happy poem? What are all of your thoughts on happy vs sad poetry?

4 Replies to “Sad Poetry”

  1. Kallie your post really spoke to me! I feel that a lot of the poetry I read/write usually has some sort of sad or dark undertone to it. I used to think that in order for a piece to be memorable, it should have some intense emotional pull on the reader. However, as I’m reading more poetry than ever before this semester I’m starting to understand that this “intense emotional pull” does not always mean sad! A poem that is sassy or funny can be very memorable as well.

    Something I do to write a “happy” poem is to have a subject in mind that makes me smile. As I write, I keep that picture in my mind and keep thinking of why I love it. This has helped me maybe it will help you as well!

  2. Great meditation, Kallie. I have often said – too glibly? – that when we are happy we share that feeling, do something with it, act upon it, and that when we are sad we get introspective and/or write. At the same time, I believe, with Emerson, that there is a fundamental relationship between words and actions, which should allow us to write happy/happier poems. Should, then, this be one of our writing exercises? And what is happiness? Do we mean celebration? Acknowledgment? Contentment?

  3. I really loved this post Kallie. I’ve noticed an occurrence like this in my own work as well. No matter how hard I try to write a “nice” or “happy” poem, my poetry always ends up having a dark/creepy undertone (and usually–although this makes me grimace to admit–these undertones are paired with some sort of nature imagery.) I think as poets we’re always trying to explore questions that don’t have answers; which is part of the maddening process of writing poetry in the first place. But this isn’t a bad thing! And sad poems aren’t a bad thing! I think that sad poetry feels more real because we are able to connect to that human emotion on a fundamental level–but we are able as poets to render that exact abstract emotion into something tangible through precise diction/syntax and imagery (woo objective correlative!)
    I don’t know why writing happy poems is much more difficult. I sort of feel like maybe as poets we need to explore certain poems over and over again until we’re ready for a new poem–is that the same with emotions? I remember once in a fiction workshop somebody complained to Rachel Hall that all the stories we were reading were “sad.” And she responded with some sort of motherly, “Well life is sad too. We need sad things as much as we need happy things, so we’re reading sad stories because I like them more.” Is the same for poetry? Maybe; I don’t know. But perhaps that’s why I find when humor in poetry is used well, I’m always in the best kind of shock and excitement.

  4. I found that for years I would just write sad poems or just dark poems but I don’t want to be stuck doing that. It’s never intentional and I’m not even in a bad mood when I write them. In fact when I’m in a bad/sad mood, I can’t write at all. And although I think many of my poems are dark, I’d like to think they at least have some humor to it now.

    Think of happy v. sad like the gender binary–destroy it! Complicate happiness and sadness and see how you can write a poem with it reframed. Feeling glum is different than depressed. And being excited is different than overjoyed. I think viewing emotions and their varying shades (and intensity) helped me write some poems that weren’t always so dark (but my significant other insists I write sad poems so go figure). I like Katie’s suggestion about writing a happy poem with something pleasant in mine. I might try it next time too!

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