Wednesday, June 6, 2007

on writing poetry

Last year, when I was an active member of the Utah Poets' Society, I used to go to the monthly meetings and shake my head at what was being passed off as poetry. To me, poetry should be the language of the soul. What seems to be popular these days appears more like mental exercises and thinly-veiled attempts to be cute.
I don't write poetry all that often but when I do, it's usually done to express something I feel deeply about. (And, yes, I know that isn't correct English. Oh well.) One of the members of our society kept urging me to write in one of the distinct poetic styles...preferably a sonnet. She thought that would be a good exercise for me. So I did. The following is the sonnet I wrote:


Should I, a fledgling poet, try my hand
at writing sonnets, odes or villanelles -
word pictures left like wayward waves on sand
to tease and tantalize cerebral cells?

Perhaps a terza rima or a glose
would be a better style for my rhyme.
I start out well - but am not even close
To making my feet fit required time.

My fellow poets say I should not use
such archaic words - or phrases trite and true.
They seem to think free verse the only muse
and favor rambling form to clerihew.

I try them all but don’t know which is worse.
Perhaps I need to cling to doggerel verse.

And, as for my doggerel verse, the following is something I wrote years ago although it still fits today...


"I swear I'll never plant again!"
I struggle up the hill,
My aching back and muddy knees
And fingers, stiff with chill.

"A garden is a thing of joy
To some - but not to me!"
I mutter as I dig the spuds,
"Next year I will be free!"

But then the catalogs appear,
To cheer the winter days,
All filled with flowers and shrubs and trees -
'Perhaps I'll mend my ways.

I just must try that hybred pea.
The corn looks sooo divine.
Ah, well. I'll garden one more year
While I'm still in my prime.'

And so the summer finds me out
With spade and rake and hoe,
A-plantin' seeds, then groaning loud,
"Why won't this *@!?! (danged) stuff grow?!"

Another poem I wrote nearly twenty years ago is one that I've always been fond of simply because it so fits my opinion of Wyoming winters.


Wyoming winter stretches on
Through evening grey and muted dawn --
A fierce, forbidding winterscape
Of ice and snow and wind, to shape
A bleak and barren emptiness
That shrouds the spirit with finesse.
Each dreary day of somber hue
Demands depression as its due,
Extracting energy and cheer
Until the spirit is as drear
And lifeless as the blowing snows
That sift and drift in endless rows.

But when all life seems at its ebb,
Forever tangled in a web
Of desolation, dark and drear,
A chick-a-dee pipes up, "Spring's here!"
And, suddenly, the crushing jaw
Of winter's endless, gaping maw
Is closed. And joyous in its stead,
A glorious springtime rears its head.
The dawn, so muted yesterday,
Bursts gaily on the world to say,
In colors, vibrant, 'cross the sky,
"Arise and live again! Spring's nigh!"

And just for the sake of sharing - I'll include my son, Chris', favorite of my poems. Although it isn't the style of poetry I normally prefer to write - it practically wrote itself one night. ...Just for background - we had gone to our neighbor's house to pick Chris up or drop him off (don't remember which). There was a bright, full moon and as we drove past one of our neighbor's hay stacks, there was a huge stag on top of it - silhouetted against the moon. He looked forever like the Hartford stag. One impression led to another thought - you know how that goes - and when we got home I wrote the following poem.


A quick staccato beat of drums
Down country lanes,
Long since silent
Of tramping feet.

And vibrant youth
With hopes held high
Of war soon won,
"Goodby, Sarah,
I'll soon return.
You'll not know that I
Was even gone."
Militia men
For Concord bound.

Their women wait
While straining ears hear,
A quick staccato beat of drums

To me this poem speaks, not just about the beginning of the Revolutionary War, but also the dichotomy of any war. Youth, in its inexperience, marches off thinking it is invincible. War will soon be won. Women, on the other hand, wait at home, worrying, praying, straining to hear, not just the silent echoes of leave-taking but the solid sounds of safe homecoming.

God bless and keep our troops and return them home again, safely, to those who wait.

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