What comes to mind: Poetry, rants and musings


Stumbling through

Structure ain't everything


Poetry is, in my humble opinion, about the closest we get to reading the mind of another human being. If you know me, you'll probably know I write a lot of it, as I write this I've opened up 651 windows into my heart and soul. A fact that fills me simultaneously with pride and dread that one day a psychologist might read these things and lock me away until I stop. The sad thing is, most people's experience of poetry is...well...dull. You're given a poem and instead of appreciating the beauty of the words, or the emotion, or the intention behind them, you have to find the similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, rhyme scheme, structure ...etc. And by the time you're finished, this wonderfully crafted chunk of feelings is deconstructed and boiled down to a list of features and individual words. That's not the point.

Poets do not sit there with a checklist to make sure they include the 'power of three' or alliteration. Yes, sometimes they're there, but they're woven into the fabric of the piece. Saying that a poem is effective because of the techniques it uses is like taking six strings and a plank of wood and saying you have a rock concert. The poetry is in the fingers on the strings, how they move and where they go. Poetry is the acoustics of the hall and that feeling in your heart when the music hits you just right. A microphone is not a song; words and rhymes are not poems.


On that note (get it?) I'd like to mention that, as a general rule, I hate rhyming in poetry. When I write good poems, it flows from my hand quicker than the ink from my pen. I don't stop to consider my choice of words unless I'm saying something risky. When my poems rhyme it's because they rhymed in my head first, and often they rhyme just the once. Now, not all rhyming poems are bad, but an awful lot of them are either too forced or have sentences in weird orders or lose impact by having a word like 'flight' where they could, for example, say "...danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings...'" That phrase ironically comes from a poem that does rhyme ('High flight' by John Gillespie Magee, Jr) and is one of the few that I do like, because the rhyming doesn't get in the way. 

I do sometimes, despite my attempts to have a liberal attitude towards structure, consciously use rhyme or alliteration or even a syllabic count on occaision. And that's fine, I'm not going to see that a poem uses rhyming couplets and refuse to read it, not at all. But if those things obstruct the message or the beauty or the honest outpouring that flows into the stanzas of a meaningful poem, that's when I get annoyed. So many wonderful poems are spoiled by structure (don't even talk to me about acrostics, it is my belief they were invented just to give words like yoghurt, zebra and xylophone a chance to see light), which is why I am a massive advocate of free verse.


Here's my point, if you want to write a great poem, write how you're feeling. Or describe something amazing or troubling or ridiculous you saw today. Use the techniques you learn at school but do not think about it, those techniques work when they are natural. And poetry doesn't have to be deep, it doesn't have to be symbolic, sometimes blue curtains are just...blue. Write poetry for yourself, don't worry what anyone else will make of it, that's what I've been doing the past 651 days and the amazing thing is that people relate to it. Other people feel the same way as you, or remember feeling the same way as you, or want to feel how you feel in that moment. Ain't that incredible? You can write something, maybe it takes you a few minutes or a few weeks, but you can write something that shows someone else how you see the world. And when they say "I know that feeling" doesn't it make everything seem just that little bit less lonely? I wish more people got to see the thrill, the incredulous excitement of being taken on a journey through someone else's soul, of reaching out and touching another human's heart with simple words.

So please, write messy poetry, write poetry that makes no sense, write in circles or backwards or in the shape of a flame, trip over your words and forget to check the rhythm. Life ain't perfect, so poetry about life shouldn't be either. 


The flow of a river, smoothing out the

Jagged path it carved generations before

Beneath its surface things glide and twist and scurry

Blind to the hurry of the ebbing stream

And birds gather upon its banks

Resting on branches broken one way or

Another to give them a better view

To their piercing eyes the gentle surface

Never changes for beneath is their reward

But the fish and birds see not the same

Stream as I. No,

For when I step back and watch for the

Sake of watching, and the wash of constant

Trickling soothes my ears,

And the reflection of the sky is 

Dappled on my eyes, only then,

Is the river a river and not a hunting ground.


This blog is also available here: http://dancinginemptyskies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/stumbling-through.html 

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