Poetry can be a great conduit for ideas and feelings. It takes practice and work to develop the technique of writing poetry. But if a person doesn’t have anything to say then it doesn’t matter how good their technique is, their poetry is likely to sound trite and hollow.
It can be entertaining to do word play. It can be gratifying to demonstrate ones ability to turn a phrase or use the multiple meanings of words to weave a tale. But you need to have a tale to weave.
It can be wonderful to call the audience to notice nature. Flowery words can entice the audience to take time to smell the roses. But it works much better if the writer has actually stopped to smell the roses. The poet needs real life experiences to work word magic.
Writing the poem will likely be the easiest part of the process. The real work is living so that the poet has something to write about. The poet benefits from swimming in the sea of life. The poet gains depth from going deep into the well of experience. The poet can speak well of pain and pleasure when the poet has experienced pain and pleasure and has examined them both from inside and out.
Some people think this means taking drugs or alcohol or getting lost in lust. Sometimes good poetry comes from this. Mostly not. Only a few return from that journey. Many who return are so spaced out they hardly remember what happened. Others are so emotionally and intellectually damaged they cannot organize their thoughts in a way that means anything to anyone.
The trick is to come as close to the volcano as possible without getting consumed by it. It is tricky business.
Nudging oneself out of ones comfort zone allows one to pay attention to what is happening while being aware of how the experience is changing them. Asking questions of oneself and of others, even when one thinks one knows the answer, can add dimension and depth to ones vision.
Doing is better than dreaming. Volunteer. Try new things. Go new places. Try new foods. Meet new people. Go to various places of worship. Take classes. Challenge your ideas and invite others to do the same. Break eggs. Make omelettes.
Notice the simple things. Try putting them into short concise poems. What new insight did you gain from a conversation with that homeless person?How did your back and hands feel after chopping wood for the first time? How can you express the feeling of a half teaspoon of wasabi in the mouth? What is that spider thinking as it observes you in the shower? How do you express the feeling of living a year in a place where no one looks like you?
Boring poets write boring poetry. The good news is poets don’t have to be boring. Live an interesting life even if you don’t write poetry about living an interesting life. You owe it to yourself.
Featured image by Yelena Spasova under the creative commons license on FLickr.