I Can(‘t) Write Poetry

I never used to write poetry. I tried to write poems a long time ago but I could not divorce myself from the idea that every line had to rhyme and be filled with ethereal meaning subject to deep interpretation. The results were disastrous, so I quit trying. I never quit reading poetry though. I’d walk away from each used book sale with an anthology or a collection from some well-known poet. I listened carefully as the lone poet in my writing group read his work about desert flowers and winding Midwest roads. Occasionally I’d jot down a first line or just an idea for a poem but I’d never write it. I had it firmly in my head that I can’t write poetry.

Then I took a Creative Writing class and was introduced to styles of poetry I’d never seen before, like the shape poem and slam poetry. I got comfortable with the idea that sometimes a poem can be both simple and elegant; the words don’t have to rhyme and the meaning doesn’t have to be deeply hidden and hard to reach. I fell in love with the narrative poem for its ability to tell a story because at my core, I’m a story teller who wishes she was a poet. I read Loading a Boar by David Lee and it inspired me to write one of my own in the same style. I was drawn to the narrative style not only because it told a story, but because of the form. Eliminating the line breaks and formal structure that is so commonly associated with poetry took away the aspects I found most intimidating in writing poems. The elimination of line breaks is a common structural choice in both narrative and prose poetry.

I was also inspired by the way he uses the scene to communicate the message of how he went from wanting to quit writing to finding the motivation to continue writing. I used the scene in my poem in a similar way to show that perseverance is often rewarded and that friendship is enhanced by shared adventures.

Loading a Boar

By: David Lee

We were loading a boar, a goddam mean big sonofabitch and he jumped out of the pickup four times and tore out my stockracks and rooted me in the stomach and I fell down and he bit John in the knee and he thought it was broken and so did I and the boar stood over in the far corner of the pen and watched us and John and I just sat there tired and Jan laughed and brought us a beer and I said, “John it ain’t worth it, nothing’s going right and I’m feeling half dead and haven’t wrote a poem in ages and I’m ready to quit it all,” and John said, “shit, young feller, you ain’t got started yet and the reason’s cause you trying to do it outside yourself and ain’t looking in and if you wanna by god write pomes you gotta write pomes about what you know and not about the rest and you can write about pigs and that boar and Jan and you and me and the rest and there ain’t no way you’re gonna quit,” and we drank beer and smoked, all three of us, and finally loaded that mean bastard and drove home and unloaded him and he bit me again and I went in the house and got out my paper and pencils and started writing and found out John he was right.

That’s pretty great, huh? Here’s mine:

Cabbage Hunt

By: Heather Humphrey

We were three rumpled girls trekking through the back woods in search of a giant skunk cabbage, with tube socks pulled up high but not so high they hide our bruised knees and white canvass sneakers full of holes from a summer played hard and Andrea’s little sister Jenn just wants to go home when the mud gets thick and the brush is so tall she can’t see a foot in front of her face, but Andrea tells her “we warned you how it would be but you came anyway so quit whining” and we soldier on through the tangles ignoring Jenn’s quivering lip and our own fear that we’re lost, so I say “Let’s climb that little hill up the other side of the creek” and when we reach the top we’re in the old cemetery where my grandparents are buried, and covered with mud and mosquito bites we take the road the rest of the way home even though we’re not allowed but it’s better than going back through the mud and who cares if we get grounded ‘cause tomorrow is labor day and summer is over anyway and it was all worth it because somewhere in the wild where we’ll never travel again we saw the biggest skunk cabbage in all of Kattelville.

If you don’t believe you can write a poem, keep reading until you find a poem that inspires you. Do some research right now and find one that speaks to you. Then write a poem in the same style… and use the comments below to share your poetry with us!

Heather Humphrey

BPP Spring 2015 Intern

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