Reflection for poetry challenge

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Poetry Reflection—Grand Challenge

When I first decided to take the challenge to write poems in a public space where I thought people were creative, I felt a little hesitant. For one, I had never written creative writing in public before. The few times I had actually written a poem in public was when I either felt I had a good line for a poem in mind or when I was killing time as I waited for someone, so the idea of actually going to a public place to write a poem felt a little uncomfortable. I had fears that I wouldn’t be able to write anything. I felt I might look pretentious sitting there alone writing a poem in the black Moleskine notebook I carry around (and honestly, I probably do look pretentious doing that). I felt I simply wouldn’t be able to write anything I liked because when I write a poem, I tend to pace around a lot and I imagined that would look awkward in public and probably even cause some concern.

While I didn’t pace around the HoDo, I still managed to do some writing there. I was also surprised at the wide array of topics I found, images I thought about, and events I witnessed. While writing, I witnessed a lot of things happening, like a birthday party, a business meeting, a woman trying to balance work and motherhood as she talked on the phone to a business client while putting a coat on her daughter, and a transmitter blowing causing the building to run at half-power. It is obvious that I would find a lot to write about, as not a whole lot changes around my apartment, but I had just never consistently written about my experiences in a particular setting before while I was there.

While I composed two poems for my mini challenge, I composed three for my grand challenge. (I wanted to do four, but it was getting expensive.) Each of these poems comments on something that happened while I was at the HoDo, though I do make some information up, which I suppose is the poetic license portion of this exercise. While I do take instances from what I see around me, I do still make up a few things as I compose the poem. Sometimes I do this just to keep the poem going, like the time I saw the lady put on her daughter’s coat while talking on the phone and then leaving. While that is what I saw, that moment changed in the poem, Songs. It didn’t fit the way the poem started and so I changed it to the speaker of the poem seeing a woman’s leg move out from the booth and put on her coat to leave. I never mentioned the daughter because it did not fit the poem. And when I write a poem, I confess changes like this occur a fair amount, though the poem usually “takes off” from something real and something I witnessed.

From this exercise, I learned to take my poetry and other creative writing out in public more often. While I had never done much serious creative writing in public, I realized I need to do more of that because of the instances of life I see move around me and how that influences my writing. Plus, I like the connection it builds with and to the poem. What I mean when I say that last sentence is that there is this new intimacy that seems to happen when I compose a poem in public about a particular space I inhabit. I become a part of that space and that space echoes in the poem I am writing and I think that is a powerful thing.

I also cannot help but recall a past conversation I had with a friend. We were discussing how poetry has become abstract–and that abstraction has caused poets to lose their audience. Perhaps by using space (and place) in the composition of a poem will strengthen our poetry by making it less abstract and more accessible. For example, teachers still teach the poems of Robert Frost not only because he was a master at the metaphor, but also because he is one of our most accessible American poets. I think this is something to consider, especially since so much of what we write can be easily made available online to many readers. It is time we think more about making our words and our metaphors accessible, but this does not mean we make poetry more “simplistic.” In fact, it is quite different from that. Instead, this should challenge us to make our language more identifiable by our audience and to consider images and metaphors that resonate on a wider plane.

As a side note, there is a book I can read about the poetics of space titled, obviously enough, _The Poetics of Space_ by Gaston Bauchelard.


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