Poetry and I… hmm. We don’t always get along. And I’d really like us to.
Lately I’ve fallen into a creative rut. Well, “rut” is a bit of an understatement. It’s more like every time a open a Word document, I produce shit. A bit harsh, but what can I say? I’ve been tapped out since the beginning of March, and I’ve been feeling a bit dispirited lately. I started a handful of short stories with some ideas I’d been playing with, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I felt like everything I’d been writing lately was more or less the same, and it was getting a little awkward trying to expand what I wanted to say into ten or more pages when perhaps one or two would be more appropriate. So I hesitantly decided to take a break from writing fiction and revisit poetry.
I don’t hate poetry. I really don’t. But it doesn’t do for me what fiction does. It’s very hit or miss; sometimes I love it, sometimes I just don’t see it. When I took my creative writing workshops during college, I always felt more attuned with fiction than poetry. I found myself anxiously waiting for the second half of each semester so we would move on to drafting short stories. And when I moved on to separate advanced poetry and fiction workshops, I knew for certain that fiction is where I belonged. And to tell the truth, I honestly never expected myself to write poems again.
So needless to say, I’ve been feeling pretty out of my element while writing this past week. And I guess that’s to be expected. After all, I haven’t written poetry in three years. And it’s not like I completely forgot everything I learned (although it certainly feels like I have), but I am struggling to remember techniques like how to effectively take advantage of form. I suppose I can just write prose poetry, although part of me feels like that would be too similar to writing a paragraph of fiction, and I’d like to try something new right now.
So what is writing poetry doing for me lately that fiction wasn’t? Well, even though I’m not writing good poetry, I’m expressing themes and ideas more easily. I don’t need to worry about crafting an entire story around them, I just need to focus on the one thing I want to feature. Which is great, because while a lot of successful short stories center around a central theme, right now I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when I try to do so. Writing poems helps me focus on what I want to say without having the obligation to transform it into a longer narrative. It’s kind of like when you come across a set of lyrics from a song or lines from a story that are really strong, and then separating them from the rest of the piece, making them stronger, and therefore making them stand on their own much more effectively. Whether these poems will eventually transform into longer works (or even possibly flash fiction), I don’t know, although I feel like I’m more successful working with poetry right now than fiction. And I’m not even writing good poetry.
It’s interesting to note how I’m already thinking how I can use poems to help my writing, though. I don’t want to belittle the craft of writing poetry by calling it a good brainstorming session for future stories, but I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t providing that function for me. Maybe poetry and fiction are more related than I initially gave them credit for.
This leads to another interesting idea concerning writers in general: should they reach out and experiment with different crafts of writing? Should the fiction writer also write poetry? Should poets write fiction? Should creative writers write articles, columns, and other forms of “informational” writing? I believe writers should take risks when writing, read unfamiliar literature, and overall never get too caught up in their comfort zones. Maybe that should include types of writing altogether, too.
At any rate, I’m enjoying the process of experimenting with poems. I look forward to what I’ll be able to accomplish and hope to become more familiar with the world of poetry as I look through poems.