Just typing the word POETRY into a Google search brings up some surprising results. For instance, top of the page is Poetry Fashion, whilst further down you can find articles such as ‘Why Poetry is the Greatest Weapon Against Donald Trump’.
Poetry, it seems, can be anything to anyone, and I have recently read an article which describes the current teaching method of poetry as wrong.
Matthew Zapruder is a poet, and he has written a new book on poetry called Why Poetry, which looks at why a lot of people feel alienated by poems. He argues that they are not riddles to be deciphered, but a form of writing into which you can delve into the writers emotions. It is the only form of writing, he says, that really opens up a human being and makes them aware of the world around them.
I have to say that there is something in his argument. I have a fourteen year old daughter who appears to be scared of poems when they crop up in class or homework. There seems to be an aura around them, created by us, that makes them untouchable, and that you have to be a mastermind of language in order to understand what the writer is trying to tell you.
But, what if the writer is not trying to tell you anything? The writer instead is trying to make you feel something, and to see something; in other words, paint a picture with words.
That to me is what poems are all about, emotions and imagination. Many poems I have read take you on a journey and it is almost like diving into a pool of words, the emotion of which is like the cool water surrounding you. I know that there is structure to understand and if you want to write in a particular form then you have to know the rules. But for the most part, a poem should be making you feel something which other forms of writing are not able to do. A good poem unlocks your brain and allows in smells, colour, passion, feeling and vision.
A poem is like switching on the television and immediately being taken to the place that is on the screen.
Take the Haiku for instance, a simple form of poetry it would appear from the outside, but when you absorb a good Haiku it gives you everything in one small package. It is perfection squeezed into a few lines that you almost remember after the first reading. A Haiku is an extremely hard form of poetry to get right.
The fundamental thing about any kind of writing is that it has been written to be read. Writing that is not shared are just words on a piece of paper, and until those words are digested by another pair of eyes, until another soul breathes in the thoughts that you had, those words will remain lifeless.
So, for all the fear that is involved in sharing ones work, it is worth overcoming that and reaching out to an audience. Most recently I did, I entered into a competition for a short story and my piece has been chosen to be read by a professional actor at an event on Friday.
I will be going along to see the reaction, biting my nails, and feeling as sick as a parrot. Writing is a painful and lonely experience, but sharing your writing can make it magical.