Poems Within Poems

Pick a line. Any line.

Now, consider it a poem.

The process of writing inevitably turns into the process of editing and revision. If I gave every line the tender love and care that I devote to each poem, perhaps I would not settle for mediocrity. Unfortunately, I have the habit of writing lines that fall into two different categories: my favorites and space-fillers. These space-filling lines would be exponentially more appealing as white space. Or quotes. Or abstractions. Anything but space-fillers.

As Patrick Phillips states in A Broken Thing, “the line is not ornamentation.” I must learn to write this in the margins of my poetry. This shall become my mantra. When my lines become space-fillers, or ornamentation, they lack “ground beneath [them]: the conveyance that keeps [them] going where [they have] to go” (190). In other words, each line must maintain enough momentum to propel the reader to the next line or the following white space. There is a fine balance between urging the reader forward and letting them linger. In other words, each line is a paradox– it must be fulfilling and yet leave them wanting more. While Phillips claims that the answer to writer’s block is to “write the first few words that will become the line, which will become the craft I need to carry on,” I happen to disagree. I believe that this is the starting point for lines that lack purpose. When contemplating the conclusion of a poem, Phillips reminds himself that he has just “one more line to make the stanza…five more feet to make the line…” (191). I believe that this approach subjects the poem to monotony. Lines written in this manner will lack spontaneity and craft. As a result, the blank space will transform into space-fillers– both of which are undesirable. Instead, each line deserves time to grow and reach its full potential. If I wrote every line with the intention that it was a poem itself, I believe that my poems would slowly lose their staleness. Cliches, ill-placed line breaks, and space fillers would all be eradicated from my work and only the lines that deserved a spot at the podium would remain. All in all, we must not forget that each line is a poem and must be treated as so.

“Some Thoughts on the Integrity of the Single Line in Poetry” by Alberto Rios

“Dear poets,” Lytton began his email to the class. “Poets.”  

While I admit that I do dabble in poetry, I would be the last to call myself a “poet.”

This title is both daunting and an honor. Personally, I still feel naive when it comes to writing and reading poetry; I have yet to learn the ins-and-outs of the trade. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned in my creative writing classes is to “show, don’t tell.” As I contemplate the work of many poets, I drool over there well-crafted abstractions and the depth they oh-so-carefully weave into their writing. The lines composing their poems require multiple readings, as well as time spent pondering them. I feel as if my poems lack this; however, after reading A Broken Thing, I have a new perspective on poetry. Alberto Rios claims that “If you have to tell your reader, just keep reading, it’ll all get clear in a moment, then you are writing prose.” He also believes that you should not play “tricks” on the reader. I, humbled upon reading this, realized that perhaps my idea of a commendable poem, is slightly askew. I always believed that poetry was a process in which the poet took an idea, then added enough frill to make its message barely recognizable. I now believe that this is not the case, instead, every line should be able to contribute concise meaning to the poem, instead of acting as unnecessary furnishings. Now, instead of trying to make my poems aloof and convoluted, I will make it a habit to keep each line straightforward. Perhaps, after adding clarity to my poems, I may accept the title, “poet.”