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Poetry


There are two types of poetry writing. One is writing for yourself, the type of writing that you do when your dad hits you or your girlfriend breaks up with you or you’re trying to come to grips with the fact that you think you’re gay. It’s the kind of writing that you do for you, you’re the only one meant to see it, and it eventually gets tucked in a box in the bottom of your closet to be forgotten.

The other type of writing is when you write for an audience, when you want to make a point, when you want to get published. And then your work suddenly becomes very important, because it can be interpreted in many ways. Wouldn’t want anyone to think the wrong things, so you have to be careful with your word choice.

The easiest and probably best way to do this is to avoid explaining emotion. Explain everything in the scene to depict the emotion, and the reader will feel the feeling without having to be told what the emotion is. The emotion will be self-evident. It will be so self-evident, in fact, that the reader can’t avoid it. They couldn’t escape it if they wanted to. You have to set a scene and be as concrete in your description as possible so the reader can feel the wood finish on the bench at the church, or they can smell the glass cleaner from the window they’re reading about leaning on. When the reader is forced to feel the images in the writing, then it suddenly becomes strong, it pulls them into the story, kicking and screaming.

And that’s often frightening, because it seems so real.

The easiest way to describe a scene with such vividness is to not write fiction. Study your surroundings in such detail and you’ll realize the vast amount of information your senses overlook. For instance, just think about your body right now. How do your shoulders feel? Are your fingertips cold? Are your legs crossed? Is your hair tickling your forehead? As I’m writing this, I realize that my legs are crossed, and it’s actually quite uncomfortable. In other words, I wouldn’t have even noticed that I was actually in pain unless I made this conscious effort to think about it. We neglect to notice these daily things, these things that make us feel the way we do on a daily basis. And all of these things, when described in a certain way, can portray a mood with more power and strength than ever saying, "I feel tired." In this way you can make the reader feel like they have been sucked in by this work, that hands have come ripping out from the very fibers of the page itself and taken a stranglehold on them. That they have just lived it all.

Often, when you do that, when you put your own feelings and experiences into your work for an audience, the work begins to sound like the work you did for yourself, because then the work is about when your dad hits you or your girlfriend breaks up with you or you’re trying to come to grips with the fact that you think you’re gay. But there is another step taken, one that escapes the more general, one that uses concrete descriptions so you take the reader step by step through everything you’ve felt.

The first step toward healing from a pain is accepting the pain, accepting the problem. The second step is expressing that pain. Then it is easier to come to terms with it and move on.

Writing for an audience as well as for yourself can be the way to get over those problems. And help others come to terms with the problems they share with you.

There are enough critics and professors who are telling people how to write and how not to write. But to struggle with the feeling you want to put on paper, and to succeed in doing so, is what matters. This takes work, and a lot of it, but the end result may not be as lofty as review editors would like it to be. But lofty may be exactly what it should not be in order to get to the people.

Some writers, and I should correct myself by saying the "literary" writers that are more concerned with being published in the right places, will follow the current trands, or try to sound aloof by using amazing language. But our society does not reflect these literary tides (which may or may not be a good thing, but it is the the case). Our society is fast, ever-changing, impatient, and in pain. And what the masses don’t want to listen to is metered lines they don’t understand. Poetry is art, but that doesn’t mean it shoulds only be accessible to the elite, the few. The type of work I’ve described in these pages appeals to people because it is not only easy to understand, but it is also about their lives, and they can feel something from it.

And that is what poetry is. It’s not escaping, like trash novels out today, it’s not there to pipe a story into your head. While giving you concrete details the reader is still allowed to envision their own scene, conversations and feelings, and all from a short written piece. It makes you think. And it makes you feel.



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