I just did a bit of a video blog about the off-shoot from when I wanted to be a writer, to when I knew I could be a writer (two different things). I know, I’m blogging like crazy now. Video. Writing. It might be overkill. But I wanted to talk about poetry for a moment, because I think I don’t get it, for the most part, or at least, how to write like contemporary poets write poetry. I get the allure of it, that is, contemporary poetry. I think there’s rhythm in it, not a lot of rhyme, and so maybe, in this way, less wordplay. A lot of it lends well to performance (Kate Vermette rocks at this, for one). But I’ve always been drawn to writing poems with a lot of rhythm and rhyme. Love the challenge of finding rhymes that make sense and that are clever. I guess that makes me old school, maybe.
Just wanting, more than anything, to get a great rhythm and some clever rhymes going. It could be old school. I don’t study poetry and I haven’t been trained in it. I’m like Heath Ledger’s Joker…I just do. And I don’t know if I could write a rhyme-less poem consistently. I’ve written one or two, but I get tired of them quicker than the rhyming poems I’ve done, and ones that have a more traditional structure (which could be boring for some, ironically). But writing rhyme-less poems wouldn’t interest me if I did it all the time.
All this being said, I don’t write poetry too much anymore. I miss it though. I am thinking about starting to get into it a bit more, once I finish all the projects I have going on. Maybe the next book I’ll do is a poetry book? An old-school, throwback kind of poetry book (that nobody will buy).
So, I started writing poetry. In grade three, I wrote a bunch of poems that my teacher made into a book (The Bestest Poems I’ve Ever Sawed) and that’s what made me want to write. I got into poetry big time after that, and eventually, yes, I was accused of plagiarizing a poem in grade ten because, I guess, my teacher thought it was so good (or rather, TOO good for ME to write). In reality, though, she probably just didn’t know much about poetry (like me!). I will say, however, that from what I remember about the poem, it was pretty good. I wish I’d kept it. I wish I’d kept lots of my poetry from my grade school days.
So, my first love was poetry, but I have never really shared it. I think I’m going to do that once in a while on here now, because it’s fun, and hopefully not too embarrassing.
So, last year, my publisher (Portage & Main Press) was scrambling to get a poem into a resource guide for classrooms. Something had happened with the poem they were going to use in it, and I said that I’d take a crack at writing something short-notice. It had to be about bikes, because the poem had to teach something to do with bike movement. Maybe physics of some kind? Anyway, I hadn’t written a poem for a long time, and this is what I came up with:
“Mom got me some streamers
To put on my handlebars
And dad got me reflectors
To keep me safe around the cars
At the store we found a basket
To put all my things inside
Because according to my mom
I kind of need two arms to ride
My brother put some cards
On the spokes of my front tire
He says Pokemon and hockey
Look good on metal wires
Grandma got my helmet
Says it’ll save my noggin’
When I bike to get some treats
Or decide to do hot doggin’
And, boy, do I bike fast!
People say, “Wow, look at her!”
I bet nobody has ever seen
Such a stylish blur.”
Yep, so, long story short, it went into a book for teachers. It was for younger learners, hence the tone of the piece, but it was really fun to write. It brought me back to the poems I used to write, and the writing I started out with. I went through an old collection of poems I put together in, oh, university, just today. And I poured through them, and found some pretty nice ones, for a young pup. This one, actually, was written maybe…fifteen years ago. But here you go:
The struggle’s driving you away
On rubber tires, feet of clay,
You’re tired but please, carry on,
Drive until the pain is gone,
The air conducts a masterpiece,
Strands swing-dance with nimble feet,
You are motionless, the winter air
Has frozen you but whipped your hair,
Tears streak cheeks as ice-lined streets
Reflect the flecks of falling sleet,
To be empty-minded, you find it hard,
These many thoughts, these rush hour cars,
Headlights burn into your eyes,
Bright like stars in country skies,
Awakens you, you can’t ignore
The hands extended, wanting more,
Your gentle soul, your giving heart,
You begin to turn, you play the part,
Ghosts escape from manhole covers,
They come at you, slide over, under,
They dissipate, but still you wait,
You look behind and hit the brakes
But easy now, now press the pedal,
Keep driving, friend, they’re testing mettle,
And meddling, please, carry on,
Drive until the city’s gone,
The ghosts continue calling you,
Lined like candles in your rear view.”
Really traditional AABB structure. And some of the lines I really love, like: “Tears streak cheeks as ice-lined streets/reflect the flecks of falling sleet…” that sort of wordplay gets my jacked. It doesn’t happen very much, to me it’s like hitting that perfect shot in golf…you could be having the worst round, and when you hit that shot, you want to play another round. Well, forgive the sports analogy, but lines like that make me want to keep writing poetry.
So, I don’t much care about this new stylistic thing about not using commas. Or not rhyming. Or whatever. I mean, to be clear, I don’t care much about doing it myself. I’ve read lots of poetry that I really love that does this: foregoes commas, foregoes rhymes, etc. I do respect this kind of free-form kind of poetry, or whatever you call it, it’s simply not really for me to write.
Here’s one more. Okay, this one is REALLY old. Maybe high school old. But I LOVE IT.
This the dream of a cylindrical lad,
Crawling amidst the weeds and the dirt,
Making castles from clouds, grinning a tad,
Then pinching itself and returning to work,
What work! Weaving comforters, cozy indeed,
More cozy than camp fires in winter’s duress,
To sleep softly and lie in the bed it has made,
Longing for something to beat in its chest,
The longing, the wanting, the spit in one’s mouth,
The hunger for shadows with no means of light,
The clearest blue sky in this seasonal drought,
The deadness of air, the dusty green kite,
Then a crack from the comforter warming a sleep,
The awakening hope rubs its greedy black eyes,
In a rainbow sweet blur tickled ribs know a beat,
And the lad so long wanting takes leave for the sky,
These wings! They bleed the blackest tears,
Which streak the trails pronounced against
The purest orange, so pure that it tastes,
These wings flutter soft as silky lace.”
Okay, so that’s poetry for you. I love it. I don’t do it often. I want to learn more about it, practice it more, but I think this is the kind of style I really get drawn to and excited about it.
Here is me as a poet: