National Poetry Month

Hello, hello!  Since April is National Poetry Month, I thought I would share a list of five poems that have stuck with me through the years.  They aren’t necessarily favorites, just ones that I keep coming back to for some reason.  I think we all have at least one, even if we aren’t the biggest fans of poetry in general.  It might be a nursery rhyme or song lyrics (because those totally count as poetry), but it’s there.  I actually have a lot more than five, but I don’t want to bore anyone.

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1.  The first poem is called “The Suicide” by Ai (if the link doesn’t take you directly to the page, it’s on page 40 in that one).  It was originally included in her collection, Cruelty.  I found this poem in my Intro to Poetry Writing class an undergrad.  The teacher gave us a list of poets and we had to pick three to read.  I wanted to see what a woman whose name means love wrote about, and I wasn’t disappointed.  I immediately fell in love with the way she made mundane things creepy and disturbing, but made the creepy and disturbing stuff beautiful.  I don’t know why “The Suicide” has stuck with me, but I find myself drawn to rereading it every couple of years.

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2.  Next up is “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost, which appeared in West-Running Brook.  Pretty sure I was still in high school when I was introduced to this one.  I just remember feeling a kinship with the speaker of the poem.  Someone who was awkward, lonely, and probably a little depressed.  I still feel that strong connection to it whenever I read it.  Maybe I’m just weird.

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3.  I can’t do a list like this without including John Donne.  A lot of his poems have resonated with me, but the one that I undoubtedly come back to the most is “Holy Sonnet X: Death, be not proud.”  I don’t remember how old I was when I came across this one, but I do know that I loved it from the start.  The personification of Death has always interested me.  The idea that it was a physical being that I could talk to was creepy and wonderful even as a kid.  Then Donne goes and kills Death, which I fully admit I found a little sad.  Why can’t Death join us in eternity?  But yeah, this is one I’ll always hold dear.

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4.  The Wild Iris by Louise Gluck is another collection I discovered during that Intro to Poetry Writing class.  While I related to a lot of the poems in this book, “Snowdrops” is the one I come back to every so often.  I read it as someone breaking free of a long depression, feeling all of that weight disappear.  It gave me hope during a dark period in my life.  It still gives me the same feeling every time I read it.

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5.  And, of course, Poe is going to make an appearance on this list.  While I am drawn more to his short stories, I do enjoy his poetry once in a while.  For me, “A Dream Within a Dream” is the poem I come back to the most.  I can take or leave the first half, but something about the second part just keeps calling me back to it.  The fear and the lack of control is something I relate strongly to, so I suppose that’s why I keep going back to it.

What about you?  What poem keeps pulling you back to it?  Feel free to share your list here or on my social media pages.

Writing The Personal: Anything But That

Hello, hello!  I really had no idea what to write about today, so I went through a bunch of those list type blogs of “topics for writers,” which usually aren’t all that helpful.  One question that seems to show up on all the lists is “what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever written?”  You mean aside from all of these blog posts?  I don’t know.  I’ve never had a difficult time with any particular piece beyond the normal troubles a writer has.  I’m uncomfortable writing in the field of science fiction and pretty much anything with a political theme, but only because I’m not used to those genres.  There’s really only one thing I actively avoid in my every day writing: anything personal.  I mean yeah, there’s always going to be a part of me in everything I write, but I’ll probably never write a memoir or anything like that.  I’m boring.  Who would want to read about my life?

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That’s why I don’t write about myself.

I don’t care for slice of life books.  Or diaries.  Or journals.  Never have.  My life sucks enough, so I’d much rather escape into fantasy and the like when I’m both reading and writing.  Happy endings aren’t entirely necessary, but adventure and magic and awe are.  I’ve felt that way for as long as I can remember.  I’ve never really kept a diary or journal or anything like that for the same reasons.  I tried.  But it got really boring really fast.  Every diary devolved into a list of shows I watched or songs I heard.  I’m sure that type of writing is cathartic for some people, but I always preferred to avoid it.

Of course, there were times I was forced to write from a personal perspective.  You can’t take poetry writing as an undergrad without being “encouraged” (read: coerced) into writing about yourself.  I always felt dirty after it.  Especially if it was something I had to share with the class.  All the words sounded stupid as I said them out loud.  I either felt like I was bragging or complaining, both of which are things I try to avoid most of the time.  At least back then I avoided them.  I’m just an uncomfortable topic for me.

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Basically.

I still remember one assignment from my Introduction to Poetry Writing class that I ended up taking much more seriously than I ever intended to.  The writing prompt was along the lines of something as simple as “write a poem speaking to God” with the caveat that we had to take a cliché and make it our own.  We sat in a circle and somehow I ended up having to read last.  Everyone else wrote vague and super happy poems, then it came to me.  I didn’t even print out a copy because I didn’t want my mom to read it (she was snoopy like that).  I memorized it and offered to email it to the teacher who totally understood.  It was angry and personal and I have always thought of it when I thought of things that were difficult to write.  It’s part of the reason I started actively avoiding personal writing.

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Seemed appropriate.

What about you?  What’s the hardest thing for you to write about?  Is there a topic or genre that you actively avoid?

And, for anyone wondering about that poem, here it is:

Dear God

by Shawna Borman

I want to believe
That love is blind
And the world is kind
And that we all have time
To fall in love. 

But that’s a lie. 

I want to be loved
For who I am
Despite what I am
By someone who doesn’t give a damn
About the outside. 

But that’s not going to happen. 

I want to thank you
For saving me
From who I know I would be
At the price of not letting me be free
To make my own mistakes. 

But I can’t. 

Because…

I want to be beautiful.
I would be.
I could be.
I should be!
But this, this isn’t a matter of “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” 

I want to walk
With my head held high
And turn the eye
Of every guy
In the room towards me.

I want to be shallow.
I don’t care if they love me for what’s on the inside,
Because first they have to like me for what’s on the outside.
If the outside’s not for keeps,
No one’s going to want to dig too deep. 

And I want to hate you
For the way you made me.
But I don’t know your face,
Don’t know your name,
Hell, I don’t even know if you exist. 

But I need you to be a part of my life,
Because even though I blame you,
It’s still easier
To believe that I’m one of your creatures,
Than to know that I’m just a freak of nature.