About three years ago I re-discovered writing poetry. I say re-discovered because like most people I did poetry at school. I knew about this form of writing and I had written poems before. But back then poetry hadn’t captured my attention or imagination like writing a novel length story had and I left poetry behind when I left school.
The love of writing and story telling has always been with me and when I decided to write for publication I began investigating different ways to extend my writing. I found poetry, but I didn’t really know what was involved in writing a poem, and I didn’t remember much about poetry from school, other than poetry seemed to always rhyme and I wasn’t good with rhyme.
To help reconnect with how to write a poem I went to a workshop on writing poetry. It was a disaster. The teacher told me I was blocked (which was true, but didn’t help me to get unblocked) and I left not wanting to write poetry. I didn’t write poetry for about a year. But poetry wasn’t finished with me, and it came up again through a writing friend/mentor. I decided to give writing poetry another try, face my fears and unblock myself. After all I only had to play with words and have some fun. I was only trying to improve my writing craft not become a Poet or have my poems published. I managed to write a few poems, but I had no idea if they were any good, or if I had written them correctly.
To help me continue on this journey I found a poetry editor and sent him five of my poems to critique. He was very gentle with his red pen and gave me some advice: ‘Go and read some modern poetry.’ I wondered if it could be as simple as reading poems that would improve my poetry. If it was then I decided I’d better get reading.
I bought some poetry anthologies and read them. I discovered modern poetry, and free form poetry with no rhyme, and I learnt how to handle metaphors. Ideas bloomed in my mind and I wrote more poems. I had found the joy of writing poetry and I wanted to write more poems. I couldn’t stop if I wanted to. I was falling in love with words (I even wrote a poem about my relationship with words, in my collection ‘Creating Wings’).
I sent another five to my editor to get some more direction on how to improve my writing. This time I got something unexpected. The poems were returned with a few red marks and a comment ‘… four of these are publishable…’
A whole new world opened up for me. I learnt about cover letters, and places to submit to who were supportive of new writers and I joined a poetry group. I sent my poems to newspapers, magazines, and anthologies without really knowing if these poems would really be published or just rejected.
The first poem accepted for publication in The Independent Weekly (Adelaide newspaper) was ‘The Creation of Wings’ which is in the collection ‘Creating Wings.’ I didn’t receive any money for the publication, but I did get a complementary book of poetry, and in a time when digital publications were becoming more common I saw my poem in print. I was excited, and I was learning about the industry of writing. I had fun sending out my poems to see if any would be accepted. I thought of my poems as feathers I was sending out into the word for others to enjoy. Without realising I became a Poet, and in between writing short stories and novels I had managed to write enough poems for a collection; ‘Creating Wings.’
More importantly, I continued to write poems, and despite rejections I sent them out into the word on a breath of my hope that they might get published. I no longer cared if I was going to get paid or not, I was having too much fun.
Poetry was a world that came to me and I’ve learnt how to play in this environment. I’ve learnt how to write economically, to play with words and combine them together in new ways to describe universal themes of life and death we are all familiar with. I’ve learnt poetry can be easy to write and it can be accessible and not highbrow or academic. And it can be fun. It’s helped me to be free and uninhibited when writing – maybe that’s why wings are such a theme in my poetry!
I’ve learnt to throw away the rules of poetry forms and find a modern twist, and that poetry is everywhere, in songs, hip hop, text messages and even Twitter. And I’ve learnt to bring the rules back to give myself a challenge.
I can even leave out the grammar in my poems. There are a lot of things for me to play with when writing poems. This has all fed into how I write short stories and novels, and has enriched my story telling skills. And my love affair continues.
Writing a poem means some of my ideas, the smaller ones, get attention. This somehow helps me to connect more strongly to my muse and the ideas keep popping into my mind – the good the bad and the ugly, which inspired another poem (‘Ideas’) I’ve written in ‘Creating Wings.’ Being able to write a poem about almost anything (forgetting whether or not this poem is going to be published or is in a state to be publishable) has helped me connect with my creative flow so that I’m writing and not blocked, and I am getting better at discerning between good and bad ideas as well as searching for those gems of ideas the hide in the darkness.
Writing poetry helps me to embrace the unknown, because I don’t always know the ending of the poem when I start, but by playing with words I find a way through to the end. It helps me feel a little more comfortable when writing longer pieces when I’m not sure of the ending I know that I do have the ability to find it, all I have to do is to keep writing, and edit later!
Sometimes I use poetry to help me capture an idea or emotions so that I can come back and use the poem to remind me of a story I want to tell in a longer form. Poems have helped me to shape the theme I want to write about in a novel. For a young adult novel I’ve written ‘Untangling Roots’ I wrote down ten words to describe the novel.
dusty straight road
These words could form a poem. Poetry can be this simple. Maybe this poem isn’t publishable, but for this exercise it doesn’t matter because through these words I found the larger story to write and had guidance when editing. And I had fun with words.
When I don’t have time to write for long writing poems is quicker than writing a short story or novel, which means at least I have time to write a poem, or the first draft, and that means I’m doing what I love despite how busy I may be, which is of course writing.
Lilliana has kindly offered to give a ecopy (kindle or epub formats) of Creating Wings to one lucky commenter. (Thanks, Lilliana.)