Writing poetry eludes me.
Poetry is a pure form of literature. The type of pure that means beautiful: simple, stripped of its trimmings, eiπ+1=0. With a few brilliant words, a poet makes us human.
I’ve always liked poetry. The Tyger, by William Blake; 登鹳雀楼, by 王之涣; Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelly; Canción del pirata, by José de Espronceda…whatever musings that cross my path (and I keep coming back to Marc Antony’s monologue in Shakespeare’s Caesar). I have friends that write beautiful poetry, and in abundance. I know of several aficionados online that jot down a rousing poem on a whim. And yet, poetry eludes me. When I sit down to write a poem, my end result is…pretentious. The human element is lacking – it is obvious to any reader that I am trying to write poetry. Like a little girl parading around in her mother’s heels and floppy hats.
If there is one thing to be said for me, is that I am tenacious to a fault. Goal: I would capture the muse of intangible poetry and convert her to applicable formula. And so, I set out to meet my challenge.
On my quest to disentangle the mystery of poetry, I decided that every poem required a few key elements. First, there must be a reference to something ancient and hermetic (and if the Greek pantheon could be called upon, even better). Two, the lexicon must necessitate the use of a thesaurus at least thrice. Then, of course, the poem itself must have an almost lyrical tempo, more song than not. Finally, the aim must be sadness; a joyous poem is not quite as memorable as a melancholic one.
The results of my efforts yielded the following:
Your heart is locked in ice.
Did it break?
Was it always that way?
Are you lionhearted?
Do you bleed?
Behind your eyes, fire.
It is Prometheus, Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite.
An ambition to live so strong it holds a sword.
I cannot look away. What would it be like to drown? To touch your heart?
For that is beauty.
How much can be handle after we are broken?
For that is strength.
Still a bit forced, but – not bad (in my humble opinion).
And that is precisely the point.
I had always approached poetry as an immaculate perfection.
Our world today is a complicated one. Increased choice (or at least the illusion of endless opportunity) is stressful. We are made to believe that we can be better, stronger, smarter, that the world can be ours if only we work hard enough, are committed enough. In sum, we live in a world where we take every shortcoming personally; if we are not perfect, it is our fault. The result is that we are motivated by a sense of insufficiency, a sense that we are not enough. Our calling is apotheosis. If we are not Pallas Athena, Aphrodite or Adonis, then we have failed in making the most of our choices and opportunities.
Ergo, if poetry is the epitome of literature, then it must be perfect. A flawless diamond. Untouchable.
And that, I think, is the great error. Poetry is, actually, imperfection made form. It is perfectly imperfect. It is irregular, it is broken and quirky. And it is precisely because it is imperfect that it touches us. Because we are enough, just as we are. Diversity, deviation from that one ‘perfect’ ideal, is to be cherished. e.e. cummings is as much poetry as Shakespeare, and vice versa.
There are no requirements in poetry.
Poetry is human. Simple words that make us feel because, unlike prose, they don’t tell us what to feel, they allow us to feel.
So, back to the drawing board. Throw out the thesaurus, no need to look up Iphigenia, and forget a permanent prescription for tears. However, my quest for poetic perfection was not in vain, albeit a bit misinformed. Yes, my prior efforts (and maybe some current ones as well) might sound a bit forced, pretentious – a fatalist bent at the knee bemoaning true love to a skull in hand. But perhaps this is because I sat down to write poetry, because I took as immutable templates the poems written before me. And though there are certain words which universally stir us, certain images that call to us, this, this is not poetry.
Poetry cannot be written in imitation, nor can it be forced. (Maybe,,,maybe we are only made poets when the muses touch us). The true art of poetry is to find those words and string them together such that someone, somewhere, reads them and feels an inexplicable connection.
Poetry, really, is simple. And isn’t the simple always the hardest?
So, for the present –and as my next step my poetic endeavours-, I’m forcing myself to be simple and sticking to haikus. One thought, one emotion, one poem. Thoughts?
White sun, winter snow.
Eos plays with stardust brush;
a glittering dance.
Lamb, be the Tyger.
For half-gods, wine and flowers.
Real gods call for blood.