My Own Poetry

I’ve been thinking about my own poetry a lot recently thanks to this class, and I feel a bit disillusioned. From a young age, I’ve been told I’m good at poetry (this poem I wrote in first or second grade that I don’t really remember being frequently cited by my parents as proof), but I’m not sure how true that is. In fourth grade, I was told my writing (it was prose) was very “poetic.” I like to think that’s true sometimes, but even accepting that statement as true, does that I’m good at writing poetry? I’m a huge fan of metaphors, so I probably throw those around in a lot of my work, but besides that, I’m not sure if there is any poetic artistry involved in my actual poetry. Line breaks? Effectively my poetry’s comma. Rhyming? Just no (although I think the great realization that poetry does not have to rhyme was a huge step forward). Meter? What’s that? That was a joke. I promise I know what it is. Writing with it in mind is another story though. I suppose I am unsatisfied with my current poetry. I think some lines come out nice, but its far from masterful.

Even more bothersome is the incapability I feel about writing happy poems or really any feeling that isn’t pain or unease. I feel like I lack the words to describe feelings that aren’t hopeless. I jokingly refer to myself as the unpleasant poet. Just yesterday, I joked to my sister that my latest workshop poem would cement me as the kid who just writes unsettling stuff. But I don’t really want to be that person. By all means, successfully unsettling the reader does make me, dare I say, proud, but I don’t want it to be my only talent (assuming it is a talent I possess in the first place).

Ultimately, I don’t want this to be a pathetic praise/pity grab, but a reflection to lead to improvement. I was thinking that I should challenge myself to write poems I don’t usually write for the rest of the workshops. This is the best setting to learn after all.

Right now, my goals consist of 1 happy poem (that’s pretty vague, isn’t it?) and 1 narrative poem. The last narrative poem I wrote was written in 6th grade and probably overflowing with more cheese than an overstuffed quesadilla (although I still look back on it fondly). I’ve also been thinking about epic poems recently (like the Odyssey), but that might be just a bit too much. Just a bit. I still need a few more ideas to fill out this semester, but I think this is a good start.

One Reply to “My Own Poetry”

  1. These are great goals to set, and a great way to start out the semester: looking to see what makes your poetry most itself (a question we’re always asking, never fully answering, but still learning from) and what you can add that’s new. I’ll help you find some non-epic narrative poems (there are plenty that are under a page; one doesn’t have to be long to be narrative) and some that are happier more than unsettling.

    At the same time, I want you to keep exploring what you mean by this terms, including unsettling, and why you and your readers might gain from them, and what they might mean in terms of form, style, and content.

    What’s unsettling may be confessional – in part because there are cultural reasons why confession is seen as ideally private, not public like a poem – but it might be formally unusual (the poetry of Susan Howe, who at times do both) or revealing about sociocultural events we’re trying to avoid (poems about misogyny and racial injustice, for instance). You may not need to stop being unsettling, but to explore how and why your poems unsettle (and how else they might), whether you want them to or not.

    Similarly, the ‘happy’ poem might be celebratory or content, ordered or exuberant. It can take many styles, and have many different hopes for its readers. As you read poems this semester, including in assigned books, think about moments you find what you’re looking for in others’ words, and try to emulate it. I find Idra Novey’s “Still Life with Invisible Canoe” happy, but it’s also philosophical, and not without sadness.
    Also, your post makes an interesting companion’s to Liz’s this week…it’d be interesting to have you two comment on each other’s posts from your own perspectives. You’re both asking about what makes poetry, poetry, after all.

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