Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Dearth of Poetry

It's been a long time since I've composed poetry.

You see, I've been bitten by the fiction bug. Until late 2008 when I first challenged myself to the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I hadn't written fiction since my creative writing professor, Dean Nelson, forced us to write short stories as a class assignment...more about Dean and his amazing writing conference here in Pine Valley later this week.

So my first experience with fiction since Dean's class in 1987 occurred when I "won" NaNoWriMo in November of 2008 with the first half of a very autobiographical novel...which I then completed during NaNoWriMo 2009. It's very, very rough and would need a great deal of work to get into proper shape for sharing...much less publication.

Then I discovered another mode of fiction writing in November 2010 and I've been writing weekly chapters ever since. It's become a lovely mode of escape for me. When stacks of essays to be graded loom over me, jotting a fantastical chapter of 3000 words relaxes me and keeps me from requesting a permanent placement in the nearest insane asylum.

Okay, it's not that bad.

It only feels like it at times.

But a rather sad side effect of the blossoming of fiction writing has been the dearth of poetry writing. Twice I've joined daily poetry challenges for a month, in April 2009 and in November 2010, and while much of the poetry written was utter crap, a couple gems-in-the-rough sidled in, looking for a home...or at least a good polishing.

But since starting the weekly fiction chapters in late 2010, I've written three poems, two of them crap.

I rather miss the ebb and flow of poetry, the thought processes required, the depth of insight and actual seeing.

Fiction writing is easier. Freer. It's like running--almost thoughtless at times, and one can get really far, really fast.

Poetry writing is more like a waltz, or even a minuet. One has to know what one is doing; one has to know the rules. It's complex, and encircling truth. Footwork is required, and technique, and grace; one must hold the head at just such an angle, etc. Much is depth is required; it must be worked and reworked and re-reworked much differently than writing fiction.

Not that fiction is easy to write. It's not. But it's a marathon versus a minuet. You have to be in it for the long haul. And as we run, the important thing is to...keep running. It's long but not as intense; it's deep, but not as deep. There's a technique, but nothing compared to a ballroom dance.

What I've found is that, for me at this particular point in my life, I can't run an marathon and dance a minuet at the same time. No, it's one or the other, but not both simultaneously.

Part of the reason for such single-mindedness is the lack of time I have for recreational writing of any sort. Perhaps when the teetering essays are graded and the poetry and Shakespeare classes are taught and the kids are homeschooled...perhaps then I'll be able to train for both the marathon and the minuet.

But not now.

No, not right now.

Perhaps later.

After all, this thought by one of my favorite poets gives me hope...hope in writing fiction as well as poetry:

"Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood."
--T.S. Eliot

I've found Eliot's maxim to be quite true. Especially in Eliot's own poetry, for example, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." I still am not sure I understand more than half of one of my favorite poems. But I enjoy it thoroughly every time I peruse it.

Wishing you a poetic week,

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