Confession: Poetry has always made me feel dumb. Words all twisted with secret meanings that I never quite felt comfortable about understanding. I remember my high school English teacher reading the line "big as a house" and saying, "of course she's pregnant." And I was like, WHAAAT?!? Didn't see that coming!
I considered poetry the frenemy of my English major throughout college. Ever-present. Never fully embraced. Super annoying.
After a year of pandemic weirdness, I am compelled to do things that get me out of my comfort zone, if not out of my house just yet. I am doing crossword puzzles, which I also dislike, and also make me feel dumb--teasing me with their playful little clues (and utter lack of knowledge about baseball players).
Now I am regularly writing and reading poetry. A real life actual poet friend recommended books by Ted Kooser and Mary Oliver. I am reading the books, writing poems, and reading poems every night before bed, which turns out to be better than looking at my phone before sleeping. I feel slightly accountable to my poet friend to give it a good go.
I have written a lot of bad poetry. Too many poems about rats for some reason. I have also started to write a few poems that are okay. I still couldn't confidently tell you the difference between a dactyl and a trochee. But I think I get spondee. I am revising the poems I write to make them better. That's the trick to taking any kind of writing seriously, isn't it? Revision, revision, revision.
Poems and crosswords seem to have something in common, I'm learning, in the way they each use figurative language, make words fun (I'm getting there).
I'm not sure how this experiment is affecting my novel writing, but I think it's been good to remember that practice turns things that make us feel dumb, or things that we dislike, into things we can actually do. And competence is usually enjoyable.
Happy National Poetry Month!