I’ve been writing poetry since I was a very little girl. Some of my earliest verses were composed on a summer vacation when I was about 7 years old, studying the motion of the waves against the beach as doubtless so many other poets before me had done. I was inspired by the fluid rocking motion of the water, and how it left the beach looking swept and clean, so I jotted down a little poem about it.
What I Used to Think Poetry was About
Poetry indeed served as a welcome diversion from other subjects like math and science, but I didn’t do a whole lot of it during elementary school. From what I learned in school, you simply had to write poetry in a very specific way for it to be considered “art.” I toyed with the idea of becoming a poet when I was older, but I certainly didn’t have the patience to sit there and rhyme ending words, or to make each line be the same length with the same beats as its predecessors. It seemed like a lot of work–and it ended up sounding a lot less inspired and beautiful–when I tried it, at least.
Poetry: Not Merely Meter and Rhyme
But the hangups I had about “appropriate” poetry style all but evaporated in middle school. I began to need a way to talk about the despair and anger I was feeling, without writing too directly about it and getting angry all over again. So I just wrote, breaking my poetry’s lines wherever it felt “right” to break them, choosing words only for their biggest emotional impact.
This poetry, in a real sense, became my journal entries. As I worked with fitting my emotions into a small space of verse, my feelings and problems became concentrated and yet refined. Other people could relate to what I had written, but it didn’t hurt me quite so bad to read it as it had hurt while I was writing it all out. It was quite like getting a splinter out of my finger and showing the sliver of wood to other people–it was painful poetry, but it was good because it was so raw.
I wrote this type of self-discovering poetry all throughout high school and well into college, and even some into graduate school. Much of that poetry probably shouldn’t really be shown to anybody now, since my style has evolved as I have grown up (not to mention my mindset). But the art form served its purpose–each poem helped me stay in control of my emotions, storing them in a paper jar, like storing fruit by canning it. And, I can reopen the jars at any time and re-experience my life at that moment.
Poetry as An Old Faithful Friend
As my life has become brighter, especially with the advent of my current relationship and my continued work on my novel and my music, I find myself less likely to lean on poetry’s shoulder, writing mainly life-observing poems rather than inward-looking poems (though I can still wring the tears out of a piece of paper if I’m in a mood to do so!). I use poetry now as an occasional journal entry, a way to immortalize a moment rather than a way to work out a problem. But I know that I can always write out my problem in verse; just like a faithful old journal, the art form of the poem waits for me to write.
How to Start Writing Poetry for Yourself
Though I’m sure the poetry purists out there are probably recoiling in horror from this post, I still recommend approaching poetry as an art form you can USE rather than as an art form you have to produce “just so.” If you let others’ guidelines for writing poetry become rigid rules, you can actually stifle your own creativity before it ever has a real chance.
That’s why I’m not suggesting any specific rules or regulations. Rhyme if you want to, make it rhythmical if you want to, but feel free to explore the edges of the art form, too; discover the line where speech becomes poetry, where words become art. Write what you really feel and think, and worry about refining it later, if it even needs refining. The world may not need another perfectly measured and rhymed work of art–but it does need your thoughts.