Today’s post in the Writer’s Journey series is contributed by Chris Spurgeon, a new addition to CCMWG. I hope you enjoy his post!
ME AND POETRY WRITING
by Christopher Spurgeon
I have a tendency to resist and avoid thinking in an organized manner, and a long-standing distrust of arguments that I ought to be organized to oblige other people. So remembering my own past isn’t my habit, especially now in retirement. But for the sake of people who really feel much as I do I can, and happily.
I’ve been writing poetry for some twelve years now, and love doing it. It is as personal as dressing and combing one’s hair and brushing one’s teeth before starting the day. Poetry writing for me is an attempt to form into words something that, if it were prose, one could not publish or post online. No one would get it. Or if they did understand they wouldn’t respond to something so familiar. I could use the word intimate here but frankly do not like it. “Intimate” reeks too much of romance novels, or polite language in mixed company. Poetry talks about what goes on in one’s head – thoughts and feelings. If there is passion it is the passion of a sculptor for his hammer and chisel. I don’t want to be a disappointment, but the intimacy of poetry is mostly not about lust.
Writing is an art. There are many things the arts have in common. One of the most important is this attitude – if I perform the lead role in a three or five act play and have the experience to carry the play on my back, there is still one thing I need. Belief. There can be no doubt in my mind, not for fifteen minutes at any point, that I can perform the play. I MUST UNDERSTAND that I can do the job, that I have the capacity, have the background, training and experience. I must not entertain any doubts about that. If I doubt, I can’t perform the role.
How do I know that? Because I spent 38 years performing theatrical plays, in the United States, Canada, Western Europe and spots along the Mediterranean. In two languages.
It is the same with drawing or painting two-dimensional designs and compositions. There can’t be any doubt in the artist’s mind he can “render” – execute – his art piece. Many people are self-deprecating. They say “Oh, I can’t do that. I can barely draw a stick figure.” And in so doing, because they say that and think it, they can’t draw.
So I became a member of Facebook about ten years ago, and discovered to my surprise that few of my friends had anything lengthy or well-developed to say. I came to the conclusion this was because most people go to Facebook in their hours off work, but they are busy with their families of course, and or their local friends, and begrudge themselves the time to read something three pages long on a topic they don’t have a lot of interest in. So I learned, along with everyone else, to make my texting and posts shorter, more bite sized. But it wasn’t satisfying. I seldom said the things on my mind or heart.
I felt that people would respond best in a different format. That form was poetry. And it works. How does one write poetry?
First one says sure, it will be easy. Then one insists on making it easy for oneself. Want to start with a challenging form such as the sonnet? No problem. First, it’s iambic pentameter. The words go duh-DAH five times. In English that’s easy:
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
The sin of our ingratitude even now
Upon the shores of Gitchee Goomie
With upturned Faces on as real a Face
This stupid post is just a thousand words
See? It’s a cinch. Then decide if you want to make it the Shakespeare form, the Elizabeth Barrett Browning form, or what you will. THEN you just write any fool thing but make sure you adhere rigidly to the form. It might end up dumb, but you’ve written a sonnet. That’s a start. You don’t know anyone else who has written a blasted sonnet. But you have.
So I did. Several. And my friends said they weren’t bad at all. I was informed by having been dipped in literature for decades. Then I tried imitating Ogden Nash. I studied two of his collections to get an idea of exactly what he wrote about, why, and how. Then I winged it without looking, and came up with three poems like his, but mine.
Then I looked at Norman Lear, Lewis Carroll, Shakespeare, Dickenson. Wordsworth, Keats, Byron, Blake. They all had their own reasons to write.
My reason was to write honestly to my friends online in such a way, they might not answer, but might understand me, and be comfortable with how I put it. It is for love. I don’t discuss something like I know it all, or have an inside advantage. I try to write a poem to act or react honestly to someone or something, when a direct remark in a comment or post might be too harsh, too intimate, too careless or too anything.
I flex my foot on the thrumming pedal
Letting myself through the town
Like a mountaineer lets his thread down the Alp
This room of darkling firelight waits for me
I rub my cap and cough cold air eagerly
Hunched against the whirling skies
My mind ahead turning off the motor in the
Crouched invisible shed.
How as a poet do you find your own form? You write poems a long enough time. You write them because you have a muse that wakes you up with an idea in the early morning hours or watching TV in the afternoon. You roll out of bed, switch the TV off, stop what you’re doing, go to the word processor. Get it down before forgotten. If it’s not love to begin with, it becomes love later.
Thank you, Chris, for letting us see into your influences and creative process, and for being brave enough to post first! If you have an idea for a blog post, please send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with Blog Post in the subject line. And don’t forget to leave your comments for Chris down in the comments section below. I am sure he would love to hear from you.