Why I Write Poetry

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     I am often asked why I have chosen to write poems instead of novels, short stories and essays in my writer’s life. My answer is not a complicated one:
Because I want to. Because it lets me be authentic. Because we need poetry. Besides, supplies are basic and simple…a journal, a blue pen and the words that spill out thoughts and memories.
     In the winter of 1997, I wrote my first poem. Actually, it was a running track to tell a friend from Boston what it was like to live in Colorado while sitting in a traffic jam one January morning on I-25 staring at Pikes Peak. Searching like a mad woman in my school bag for pen and paper, words began to spill out and I could not get them written down fast enough. I was afraid I would forget them as fast as they came. And my writer’s heart along with it.
     Writing a poem for me is not a goal-oriented activity. It has been a continual process of discovering who I am and for me I cannot do that in writing a novel. I have discovered that my words can have an immediate and long lasting impression on those that read them; something that is expressed when one feels the same way as I do and can’t or won’t write them down. While writing a poem can be in be a most intimate and satisfying experience, how it touches a reader’s heart and life is the most important and gratifying tribute I could have as a writer.
     I write free verse only; I am partial to the flow of eloquent and rich language. I cannot rhyme or do metered poetry or sonnets-it reminds me of teaching language arts daily to my students at school before retiring from education. I do not care for writing prompts set up by someone’s idea of what a writing subject should be. My writing “prompts” come from observing details of the world around me, what I am seeing in the moment, what I am feeling or what I have remembered from an experience in my life. As an example, in the poem The Wedding Ring Quilt, there is a direct relationship between my words and my writing what I have experienced…not exactly the typical writer’s mantra of “write what you know”:
 
THE WEDDING RING QUILT
This morning, the first snow of spring
kept falling like a curtain of lace across the mountains,
spilling remnants of winter
down into the stunted pine brushed valley.
“I hope it snows six feet,” I said.
Warm, weathered hands
gathered our wedding ring quilt
around the curve of me, knowing the soft why of my words.
 
     I am always looking for ways to improve my work. One of the best ways has been through my writing group that I have been with for the past several years. Their insights and critiques are not just welcome, but truly invaluable. Sitting on my sofa, drinking cups of tea or coffee, fresh pens and journals in hand, wearing the comfiest of clothes lends itself to a ‘sense of place’ with trusted friends that help you figure out words, images and frustrations. But I also have found having mentor and editor that knows my style of writing and where it should go, not only the best investment, but invaluable in my writing journey. A suggested a title change to one of my poems led to a third place prize in the Denver Women’s Unknown Writing Contest. A year later, another poem took Honorable Mention. My education as a poet is always ongoing;  I hope it never ceases.
     My poetry continues to be published in small journals and local publications. My poems have been  published in “Distant Horizons”-a publication of the Wyoming Poets Society, The Story Circle Network, The Pen Woman Magazine, a publication of the National League of American Pen Women and just recently Mary Janes Farm Magazine. 
    
     Although I have self published a volume of poetry through Mountain Tapestry Press, I am always finding ways to market my poetry. One of my favorite ways to market is to combine my poems with my photography. Each poem and photo tells their own story-they enrich one another in a different medium. For one month of the year, I exhibit this combination at the Barnes and Noble Café near where I live in Colorado. What is wonderful about this opportunity for me is that I see it as a “ 30 day book signing”. I have seen many people take the time to read my work and grab my business card. A few photo/poem combos have been sold from this exhibit. Another way to market my work is that I take advantage of my local Arts Center. Whenever there is member exhibit coming up, I always enter my work. No other photographers have poems with their work except for me and it is always a unique way to get my name and work out there. I have started writing groups in my community, teach writing workshops, donated poems for special occasions, and teach students at local elementary schools.. I take advantage of small local independent bookstores in selling my book, Journey On: Beauty and Grit Along the Way. In giving back, I have been a book judge with Pikes Peak Library, Colorado Independent Publishing Association,  Women Writing the West, Oklahoma Federation of Writers and a presenter at poetry workshops at Colorado College and CCIRA Literacy Conferences in Denver.
     And so why do I write poetry? Is it because I love to wear black and a beret at a reading? ( Forget the beret; my hair is not long enough.) Is it because I love to write my words in blue scripted font instead of the standard Times New Roman black and white? ( The answer is a definite yes!) Or is it because I have had people tell me that my simple creations touch their heart in language they can relate to and feel deeply when life becomes too chaotic and my words can take them somewhere else for a moment in time?
      I love to imagine someone getting up each morning and having a small connection with a poem of mine over morning tea, smile and begin their day. After all, poems hold their own secrets, don’t they?

2 Comments »

  1. Nancy, thank you for this lovely article and the invitation to sit and read and muse. Your writing journey with poetry is a special one and many things you mentioned ring true and similar to my own journey. Your closing sentence is my sentiment too!

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  2. Linda, Many thanks for taking the time to read this essay. It originally appeared in the Women Writing the West Newsletter a few years ago. It is always good for me to re-read this to remind me how and why I write my poems. I greatly appreciate the lovely comments you made above. My thanks to you for posting them.

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