Poetry or Not (preferably not!)


“Poetry is truth in its Sunday clothes.”

[Joseph Roux]

Yeats 14-A Coat

During April I’ve been participating in National Poetry Month. Participating how, you may wonder; it’s a far stretch from novel writing. Well, I admit I didn’t write a single poem during the month. The initial challenge at Tweetspeak Poetry was to pick a poet and study his or her work, reading a poem each day.

I’m not sure why I chose William Butler Yeats‘ poetry. Much of it is gloomy, focused on aging, lost love and politics, and yet Yeats (1865-1939) is “widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century.” He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1923. The Poetry Foundation says he “was interested in occultism and spiritualism. He had been a theosophist, but in 1890 he turned from its sweeping mystical insights and joined the Golden Dawn, a secret society that practiced ritual magic… he became convinced that the mind was capable of perceiving past the limits of materialistic rationalism.

For all of that — or perhaps because of that — Yeats’ poetry is fascinating to me, not so much for what he says, but for how he says it. He is very strict in his adherence to the traditional verse forms of his time and the words bring a kind of verbal magic to the page.

Dennis Gabor (1900-1979) once said, “Poetry is plucking at the heartstrings, and making music with them.” (Gabor was also a recipient of the Nobel Prize, but in physics.)

At the end of each day this month (with the exception of a few missed ones at Easter), I chose a Yeats’ excerpt that spoke to me, despite often being out of context. I added it to one of my original photographs, and posted it on Facebook and Flickr, just to prove to my fellow poetic sojourners that I’d done my daily reading.

The earlier graphic is from April 14th. This is yesterday’s…

Yeats 27 - Innisfree Peace

If you’d like to see the entire month’s collection, you’ll find it here.

So, when April has ended what will have been the point of this exercise? I want — no, I yearn — to prove the truth of L.Willingham Lindquist‘s observation at Tweetspeak Poetry:

We’ve noticed something about people who read poetry every day: they write better, whether it’s poetry or prose. Maybe it comes from exposure to well-crafted lines. A little like osmosis, so to speak. Or maybe a corollary to what your mother always told you about the kind of friends you keep. I like to think it also comes from what the words do once they get inside you. Those well-crafted lines have a way of opening passages into our souls. They gently (and sometimes not so gently) push us to look at things differently.”

There is something to be gleaned from reading in genres other than one’s favourite. I don’t consider myself a poet. Except for rare occasions, I don’t write poetry and seldom read it. Oh, years ago I introduced my Grade One and Two students to it with fun verses by Ogden Nash, but who takes that kind of poetry seriously? (May the ghosts of his ancestors not descend upon me in wrath!) No, I prefer good ol’ fiction… a traditional mystery, perhaps historical fiction or something inspirational. But if reading poetry can make me a better writer, who am I to pass up an opportunity for improvement?

This month has also been about enrichment and self-discipline, and can’t we always use a good dose of both?

How do you feel about poetry? Have you marked National Poetry Month in any special way?

~  ~  ~



Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

13 thoughts on “Poetry or Not (preferably not!)

  1. I love how you perceive life. I’ve never been good at poetry. Probably because I think your brain needs to be still a moment. Maybe even empty. Must say tho that I think you’re smack on when you wrote “what the words do once they get inside you.” That’s it!

    1. I wrote a lot of very bad poetry when I was young. One reason I think it was so bad is that I didn’t still my brain first! I was too busy trying to thrash out my angst on the page. For me, even writing my fiction, if I don’t empty the brain first, and *then* let it refill in preparation for writing, nothing of value is ever produced.

  2. This makes me want to go “Squeee!” And yet it makes me want to sit quiet and drink in these words and images. I don’t always understand it, but I’ve fallen in love with poetry over the last few months. Funny what a dare can do to you. I’m so glad to have followed your journey.

    1. Thanks, Jenn. I’ll go have a look at them. It’s not that I don’t like poetry — I’ve read some prose poems that I thoroughly enjoyed — so much as I prefer prose. There are so many novels in my TBR pile that I just can’t seem to get around to everything I’d like to read. I need a clone! LOL.

    1. I’m glad I did, too. Not sure what I accomplished, but I’m hopeful that the exposure to rhythm and cadence will infiltrate my prose!

  3. I’ve enjoyed all your bits of Yeats. 🙂

    Love that quote from Lindquist, esp this: “it also comes from what the words do once they get inside you. Those well-crafted lines have a way of opening passages into our souls.” ❤

    1. Your poetic experiments this month have been fascinating, Shari. I hope those opened passages continue to be a conduit for more self-expression.

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