Bet’cha you’re a poet and didn’t even know it.
However, ask me if I’m a poet, and my immediate response is no. After all, poetry is sing-songy rhymes sung by first graders. Classic poets are older writers spewing stylized language for pages upon pages. The new wave of poets are hipsters baring their raw, tortured souls for 20 minutes on coffeeshop stages, waxing on the dearth of the human landscape. I’m just a wanna-be hipster, but I do appreciate Spoken Word. I just don’t “get” a lot of it.
Poetry intimidates me. I feel pressured to find something meaningful from the long strangling paragraphs of confusing and deep intense emotions. When I don’t get some passionate, life-changing insight, I feel like a numb, witless slug. Shakespeare frustrates me because my reading flow is disrupted by looking up too many word definitions. Again, I’m the imbecile. Too often, poetry is dissected in a class assignment to study form and intention, not enjoyed for the words themselves. Poetry becomes work, stale and tedious. There are ways to make poetry approachable, and that is to have fun.
One of my Top Five Favorite College Projects actually came in a poetry class I took as a junior. Our assignment had a list of specific rules, including writing in a particular meter with rhythm and using a specific number of words from the glossary provided. The challenge was the intrigue, and my submission, “To Catch a Frog,” is the only poem I ever committed to memory. This is the first stanza of the one page poem:
To kiss a frog, some say, may lead
to warts upon one’s foolish head.
So it occurred that fateful eve,
when I was lured to test belief,
departed with my sturdy trap
to catch a frog down Boggy Swamp.
Poetry can be a space to play and experiment, even for the non-poet writer. It is fractured storytelling. You can choose not to follow the traditional rules of grammar or punctuation. April is National Poetry Month, the NaNoWriMo for poets. This is the time to celebrate something new or forgotten.
About 14 years ago, I discovered the appeal of haiku. My friend and I traveled to a book expo in New York City. She is a poet, so it was no surprise that the haiku year caught her eye. The book features haikus written on postcards and mailed amongst a group of friends. The poetry form itself presents a limited commitment composing three lines of 5-7-5 syllables. It is short and structured with some boundaries, thus user-friendly. Perfect.
We both loved the creativity of it, so we emailed daily haikus to give out Inbox joy and mailed weekend postcards to keep our mailboxes from becoming jealous. We still do this today, with our subject material less nature-focused and more snippets of life in the style of senryu.
I discovered an iPhone app, Heyku, which encourages anyone to post any type of poetry, with the option to add interactive sketches, photos, or sound to each poem. I do not know the size of this online community, but I find it welcoming because I have followers of my poetry. I feel safe here, and thus more confident in my approach. You can find me there at d.w.Hirsch, always under the #haiku tag. Many of my haikus are now posted on Instagram (dwhirsch) where I can become more hipster with the trendy, special filters. Whatever the format, whether the month is April or beyond, my writing is whimsical and casual, the way I think poetry should be.
Be your own poet.