Saturday, June 7, 2014

Why Do Poets Write Poetry?

Poetry Isn't Easy

A friend once asked me why I write poetry.

She had a creepy look on her face that told me she secretly equated writing poetry with juggling snakes, or worse, licking a germy fly swatter. 

Well, maybe the look on her face wasn't quite that bad, but her expression did remind me of someone sucking on a lemon wedge.

I don't know why poetry gets such a bad rap. I write fiction, non-fiction, flash fiction, memoirs, essays, and three blogs, and I can tell you honestly that poetry is much harder to write.

When you write most anything else, you have a lot of leeway -- pages and pages to tell a story.  Not so, when writing poetry. A poem has to be condensed, without straying from the main theme, and it also usually has a beginning, middle and end.

I can only speak for myself, but I'm reasonably sure other poets would understand. Maybe they can't explain the 'why they write it' any better than I, but they can certainly understand the love for writing poetry.

A poet writes poetry because they love poetry.  It is a challenge -- and not everyone can do it.

While I'm convinced writing poetry is not a disease, it could be called an addiction -- and with no twelve-step program for recovery.

Based on my friend's question, I asked myself, "Why do I write poetry?" I mean, other than the obvious, which is that I can't NOT write poetry. If that's an addiction, well then, I enjoy my addiction. In fact, I actually revel in it.

(You can often find me scribbling thoughts and ideas wherever I am, on whatever I can find, if I get a sudden inspiration.)

To be honest, I probably should have explained to my friend that for me to hold back a poem would be like trying to hold in a sneeze. When I finally let out, it just feels good. Again, other poets would understand what I'm talking about.

I simply explained to my friend that there are thoughts and ideas down inside that I have to get out. They're uncomfortable where they are.

I told her to think of it like having a mosquito bite you can't quite reach. When you finally find someone to scratch it, it just feels good.

So I will continue to live with my addiction, no matter what friends, or anyone else, may think.

But Geez-Louise, I've got to make this short.  I feel a poetic sneeze coming on and it's gonna feel so good when I finally let it out ...

CJ's Poetry for Children:
Barking Spiders (and Other Such Stuff)
Barking Spiders 2 (sequel)
Me Too! Preschool Poetry

Poetry for Adults:
Anatomy of a Poet

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck


Unknown said...

I understand, CJ, though I think of myself as a novelist rather than a poet. I write poetry because I have to, when everything I try to write comes out with metre or rhyme...or both. I love it. I like your sneeze analogy.

Marcie Bridges said...

I love this because as a poet I certainly can relate! I love your analogies on it being like a sneeze and how it feels so good to let it out. I hope you don't mind if I share this on Facebook?!

~Marcie Bridges

CJ Heck said...

Hi Marcie -- thank you! I'm so pleased you can relate to the article. I don't mind at all if you share it on Facebook. I would feel honored.

Anonymous said...

I agree, it just feels so good to let it out. Great article.

lidy said...

I understand you too CJ. Sometimes you just have to let it out. You wouldn't believe the number of times a word or a line would pop into my head that I just had to write out. You can't just explain it but I came close to explaining what poetry means to me the same way: 'What is poetry? To me, poetry frees all of that which I've locked away. It unlocks me, you and the world around us, so much so that it makes me go, "ahh, so that's how it is." Poetry is freedom, reason, insanity, has no rhyme or reason, senseless, chaotic and sensible, love and hate. Basically, poetry is life measured in lines.'
PS. Thanks for your post and I've shared it on the How Writer's Write Poetry group page on FaceBook too.

CJ Heck said...

Thank you for your lovely comment, Lidy! It's true, other poets really do understand.

Marie said...

I never considered myself a poet. I just write down whatever my muse hands me. For me the experience is like a tiny voice whispering things in my ear. I have to write them down or the voice will become a shout and I'll have no peace.
Yes, I just admitted to hearing voices in my head! Your sneeze analogy is great, by the way.

Valerie said...

Thank you for a great article! I am a poet feeling like a minority, like a closet poet really, because I don't feel people understand my need and urgency to write poems. It was refeshing to know others feel as I do. I like what Marie said about hearing voices. I posted a link to your blog on my blog if that is okay (recommending it to others).

CJ Heck said...

I love your comments, Valerie, especially feeling like "a closet poet", and I agree! For years, I was, too (smiling).

I'm so glad you could relate. Thank you for your thoughts and for the link.