Poetry Not for Wimps

poet is the amen

She said in no uncertain terms, “I hate poetry, it simply bores me and is for wimps”.

Then she wrote a poem since she had an ocean of words to tell her story, and it felt overwhelming, so she thought to try her hand at telling the truth, stripped down and naked through a poem.

She wrote another poem and sent it for me to read. She published that poem. Then she wrote a third poem and read it out loud to a group of writers. Everyone sat stunned.

Not a wimp in that room.

Most people feel like poetry is a breed unto itself, a woman’s preference, a form that does not demand as much as a novel or a memoir from the craftsman. Think again.

Poetry doesn’t have to conform to limits or formats. Poems can be as long as a book, such as Paradise Lost, or simply two lines long, like Ezra Pound’s In a Station of the Metro. It can be 300 pages long as in the revolutionary Dante’s Inferno. Poems don’t have to rhyme or follow any kind of structure or they can be rigidly formatted. Poetry is limitless in its possibilities. For many, poetry is probably the most flexible literary genre.

Introduction to Poetry—Billy Collins

 I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide                                                  or press an ear against its hive.                                                                                                                     I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch.                                                                                                   I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore.                                                                                                                                                               But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.       They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

billy collins

For those writing 250 pages of something they may get lost in, or have dropped the thread and are trying to stitch the chapters together, stop. Open a new Word Document and try a poem that captures the heart of the book you are writing. It will rearrange the furniture of your thinking so that when you go back to your novel or memoir, or your non-fiction piece of brilliance, you have new crisp eyes to see with. Or maybe like our woman who hates poetry, you will discover the power of your own words in a new way.

And then again, just listen to a bit of poetry that sends your body into a visceral convulsion that rearranges your very cellular nature.   When you hear this poem read by its author, Dominique Christina, winner of the Women of the World Poetry Award, I assure you, you may think differently about a poem from this moment on. This poem is NOT for wimps.

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