This blog rewards me in so many wonderful ways. The most wonderful way is when, through it, I get to meet new and different and interesting and motivating authors and poets and artists of all sorts who inspire me through their artistry and temperament to want to not just continue on here, but to continue on here with bigger and better and more inclusive endeavors.
Through her kind and encouraging feedback to the work I’ve published here and in book format, and, more importantly, through her own poetic example, Rose Red of geletilari.wordpress.com has had such a powerful suasion on me, and I am happy to be able to thank her publicly for her support and her artistic example.
And I am just as happy, and honored, to be able to present to you Rose Red’s highly interesting and inspiring guest post. I ask that you please take the time to visit with her at her site and enjoy her artistry and insight as I have.
Mad about the Verse
by Rose Red
I am passionate about poetry. When did this begin? I wonder if it ever wasn’t. I think about the books I read when I first started reading at 4 years old. They were lyrical. There was rhyme. There was imagery. I recall great allegories, analogies, rhymes and fancies, with Dr. Seuss at the forefront. My mother would sign up for book promotions at the grocery store or through the mail. The first book was free, or inexpensive, then she would buy them one by one until we had the entire set. But, I was going to talk about being a poet, about writing poems. Yes, but reading is first, at the heart of it all. That is the passion we follow, reading and seeing words assembled in a way that makes us feel something. I have no words to express this as well as my old companion and favourite poet from my youth, Emily Dickinson. I was enamoured and mystified by her poetry. It broke every rule, and told so much.
If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold
no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically
as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.
These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?
This is what she said about poetry, that great love of my life. Good poems, right? No, she did not define in terms of good and bad. Her definition was at its heart. Feeling. When you have passion, the words delight. They incite action. They make you smile, laugh, grin, guffaw. Like being in love, you can also be in hate, you can be angry, disappointed, elated, surprised, engulfed. In Noël Coward’s play, “The Astonished Heart”, that subsequently became a film, Christian Faber, at a particularly low point, describes himself as being ‘submerged’. Have words ever made you feel submerged?
I have this overwhelming desire (need?) to figure out what I feel and put it out there. Some call it narcissism. Perhaps it is at its core. But, as time goes on, I find myself wanting to share it, just give it away. I want the kudos at times, yes. Let’s get that out of the way now. I don’t think about that while writing though. Like that lover we spoke of, I am true to her. I write what is inside, making that attempt to bring to the surface what is lurking beneath. If someone else can relate to it, the gratification is immense. I am not alone. If I was alone on that proverbial desert island, I still believe that I would tell my story. I would be sitting by a palm tree, telling it my life and loves.
So, is this passion no more than a great need to analyze myself on that great shrink couch of life, then unleash my psychoses on the world? Do I just want to hear others agree with me? My husband does not get a vote here. But I do think that at its center there is a desire to be heard and understood that is innate to all of us. Not everyone wants to pick it apart and describe it, comparing it to a fig leaf, a dog, or a cloudy day. So what makes me, and other poets different?
If you are passionate about these words, you scribble on anything that can be scribbled on. I heard that John Cougar Mellencamp wrote the first lyrics of “Hurts So Good” on the shower door with a bar of soap. I’ve written on envelopes, menus, pages of a crossword puzzle book, the margin of the crossword page in the newspaper, my hand, and a program from a music recital, among other things. Often the music will inspire words and I am afraid I will forget them.
I am yet to be paid for anything I have written. So what good is it? I will tell you what poetry has done for me. It has saved my life, more than once. It has allowed me to connect with strangers, more times than I can count. It has allowed me a new connection with my children, to tell them how I feel in a special way that is a gift only for them. It gives me a media to use in prayer to God, when I feel afraid and like I can’t pray, and words fail me aloud. I start writing and it just flows out of me, all the pain, the worry, the questions, and the doubts.
I started writing poetry at 9 years old. It is hard to say if it first came from a joyful place or a dark place. I was living in a dark place at home, but I think the poems were joyful because I loved school and Sunday School. There were teachers that were kind to me. I got a respect I did not get at home and I liked it. I have in my cedar chest the first poems I wrote, or at least the first ones preserved, from 4th grade. They are mostly about God or my dog. As time went on, they became clouded. I was confused about my folks taking me to church and then showing indifference, unkindness, and neglect at home. I couldn’t reconcile it all. I can’t say why I wrote them. Maybe they were for school at first? I have always written from that point on. In 5th grade I had a teacher that encouraged my creative side. She showed me poems of her own and gave me a part in the school play. In high school that darkness reached a dangerous place and nearly a deadly place. But I had a few adults in my life and a couple of friends moving in and out of my sphere that would help me not to give up. My senior year I wrote poems for the fledgling school paper and for the church bulletin. The little bits of praise I received were immeasurable in terms of self worth. But it was more. What touched me was when someone would say it made them feel something. Wow. What a rush.
About that time, my mother brought me a typewriter. I look back at that act of love in a time that we were very poor and I know it showed that she loved me. I wrote this in her memory last year.
Sometimes the words flow like water
From my finger tips and from my mind
I don’t even try because to try is to alter
Genuine heart-felt stone cold feelings.
But this morning at four a.m. my mind
Is on you Mom and I open up my typewriter
You bought for me 33 years ago at Sears
Because I need a little something to make me go.
I needed a boost, though you weren’t always so good at that-
But there was this time when you noticed me, my poetry
And that was what drove me on and you bought it for me
Said I’d need it, and it meant everything, you know.
Did you know that? Me, the beggar girl
And you gave it to me and I did not have to ask.
Mom our life memories are full of scars and I am
Starting to forgive you when I remember
We went through triage together.
As I have moved through various stages of adulthood and parenthood, I discovered that my words were something that could grow with me, and give me a voice. I often felt crossed off and invisible. I can live without fame or money. Just don’t take away my words. Don’t take the one thing intrinsically mine. It is a means of communication. When you are out of options, you are not out of options. Write. Talk about it. Show it to someone. Read their words. Listen. Share. It is something that will change your life.
I don’t get hung up on format as I think there are as many ways to express a thought as there are people. I enjoy paying attention to meter and form, and I like working over the words and making my thoughts fit into a frame without losing their meaning. But if by doing so I will lose the feeling and deeper meaning, I just keep the words flowing in free verse. I am allowed. I have a poetic license.