Not frequently, but once in a while I am inspired, either by a prompt, or because a particular piece of prose waxes lyrical enough that I think, “Oh! This could be a poem!” Usually, the “poetry” ends up in a folder named, not surprisingly, Poems, on my hard drive. I think to myself, this one has potential, and I vow to revisit it some vague time soon, and there it forever remains, untouched, forgotten, never revised.
It’s not a huge file. I really don’t fancy myself a poet. Usually, when I attempt it, I find the results maudlin, or juvenile. I aim for something like:
I love your lips when they’re wet with wine
And red with a wild desire;
I love your eyes when the lovelight lies
Lit with a passionate fire.
~Excerpt from I Love you, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
And end up with:
Let's drink wine, my love
You look so hot;
Your eyes on fire
I am lit
~Excerpt from I Probably Am, by Rowena Tisdale
Mostly, when writing poetry, I think I try too hard. I want to be deep and profound, elusive words laced with mystery and meaning. I want my poetry to break your heart!
Settle down, Ro, we’re not all Shakespeare.
So I asked some poet friends.
Punctuation in poetry
Some of the first advice I got was to eschew punctuation.
I love punctuation! Microsoft© Word© and I fight about it all the time. Especially commas. In fact, my folder for excess commas that I am saving for use later is bigger than my Poems folder. This was difficult advice for me, but I have been practicing.
Your lips, my love
are a sonnet
whispered in your kiss
Your eyes, my heart
are the hymn
I sing in your presence
Your hands, my dearest
that lingers on my skin
With you, beloved
am a poem
write me again
(See how I sneaked those commas in?)
A lot of the poetry I read is free verse. When I dabble in poetry, I try to find a natural flow of words, but to be honest, I was pretty clueless about the rules of free verse. I am drawn to less constraints, but I didn’t want to be the one idiot who didn’t know the secret, unwritten rules of this style.
(“Oh my god! Did you see Ro’s ‘poem?’ She didn’t even meter her quatrain!” “I know! And the refrain! A sestet!” “Scandalous!”)
So I asked a poet. He said free verse does not mean no rules (uh-oh!), but that each poem written in this form creates its own rules. I thought about that for a long time. Then I thought about the rhythm and flow of words I try to achieve with prose, and thought, yeah, I can work with that!
Poets are cool.
Don’t expect a poetry anthology from me any time soon. While I have become more confident about the poems I do write, prose will always be my heart. But if you follow me on Twitter, you may see the occasional poem.