Vaguely do I remember sitting with my mom at the age of four, reading. Sometimes, a flash of an illustration will emerge from my memory, just that one picture of a jeep filled with sheep driving through the desert. I think it was one of the first books I read. Sheep, jeep, some of the first words I remember seeing on the page.
When I was in second grade and attending a new school, I was awkward and lonely, and the librarian named Bette Killion took me under her wing. Over the years, she introduced me to Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series and pushed me to read every red-covered biography on the shelf. She also was a poet, and while we were learning about poetry in class, Mrs. Killion encouraged me to read and write poetry on my own.
Words became lovely to me as I learned about rhyming words and homonyms, as I wrote haiku and simple verse. I didn’t fancy myself a writer back in those days, I just wrote, playing with words as I tried to make sense of growing up and becoming me.
Though I write very little poetry now, I still immerse myself in the form in all kinds of ways, reading it, singing it, finding myself captured so clearly in the choice words of others. If writing is food, poetry is like candy, fanciful and frilly, unexpected and delightful. But it’s also like water, essential, base, life-giving.
Poet Joel Jacobson uses a different metaphor to describe poetry. He likens writing verse to playing baseball, a game which measures success using a very short stick. “You can get in the hall of fame for having a 70% failure rate,” Jacobson writes.
But the real similarity to poetry is in what he calls, “the head game.” In other words, he’s thinking too much about it.
I’m finding that I’m trying to force my poems, trying too hard to be poetic. I won’t hit a five-run home run with every poem. Some are simply destined to be pop flies and strikeouts, especially when they are closed down. Open them up, Jacobson, and relax. Here’s to worrying less about the long ball and more about making each poem open, and as strong as it can be.
Ironically, I find the same thing to be true of my prose. I’m over thinking it. Trying too hard, at times.
The solution for me and my writing lies somewhere along the line of what Joel is preaching to himself: relax! (A Sabbath theme which God is weaving through my entire life.) But I think it might also mean going back to the beginning, back to the time when words were toys not tools.
I think I need to write a little poetry.
Words running through my head,
somersaulting their way
to my lips,
down go the words to the tips
of my fingers,
rolling away towards you.
My poetry appetite is whetted day after day when I open my email and find “Every Day Poems” delivered there from TS Poetry Press. Just like the name promises, every day I get a poem — a beautiful, insightful poem — to help launch me out of bed (they come early!). There are also writing prompts, visual art, and links to online projects that you can participate in, whether you are a poet or a wanna be like me.
POETRY BONUS: Visit a few fellow High Calling Editors who have recently posted original poems on their blogs.
Join me for regular jaunts around The High Calling network, randomly visiting fellow bloggers, soaking up their words and ideas, and then coming back here to write about them from my perspective.
Each Thursday, consider going “There and Back Again” yourself. It’s simple.