Thursday, December 14, 2006

Poetry Meme

Last week's Poetry Thursday homework, one week late!

1. The first poems I remember reading/hearing/reacting to are nursery rhymes. My parents bought me a huge, beautifully illustrated book of rhymes when I was a couple of years old, and I used to make them read to me from it every night. I particularly remember the old woman who lived in a shoe, I think because of the way it flowed when spoken.

I don’t remember much poetry through my early school years, except for the kind of rhyme contained in books like The Cat in the Hat. I remember poetry having to rhyme, then I remember learning that poetry did not have to rhyme.

In High School I remember being introduced to the poems of Hone Tuwhare. I think his were probably the first poems to have a truly powerful effect on me. I discovered that poems could be raw and. I also discovered that poems could have a New Zealand voice, and speak about people I could recognise.

2. I was forced to memorize great tracts of Shakespeare in school and can probably still recite “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” if I concentrate really hard. I don’t remember having to memorise any actual poetry per se, other than my own poetry for end-of-year drama performances.
3. I read poetry because I’m inspired and challenged by other people’s writing. I love rolling poetic imagery around in my mind, savouring double meanings and novel descriptions. I enjoy the emotion a good poem can evoke – that small little twitch of recognition in my chest.
4. A poem I’m likely to think about when asked about a favorite poem is the one about growing old and wearing purple. Growing old with as much colour (although hopefully with a small amount of dignity and grace) as possible!
5. I write poetry, but my writing tends to be very much from my own experience. I don’t create other personalities or realities. It’s just not where my creative muse is at currently. The block frustrates me a little, but I’ve learned not to stress about these things.
6. My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature because it forces me to slow down. I have a bad speed reading habit, and I find that if I try to read poetry too quickly then the whole meaning and impact passes me by. I need to take time to absorb each phrase. That’s one of my few regrets about finding most of my poetry through the Poetry Thursday blog, as I don’t find online reading conducive to quality reading.
7. I find poetry to be something I have to make time for. I’m realising as I write this that I shut poetry out of my life for a long time, and now I’m having to make the effort to let it back in again. I think I’m going to have to go down to my local second hand book store and buy a couple of poetry collections.
8. The last time I heard poetry was a reading of a Mary Oliver poem by one of a group of women sitting in circle together. I had discovered that very poem the night before, and was once again reminded of how such coincidences are not coincidences, but just the Universe thumping us around the head with a MESSAGE. Mary Oliver has since become one of my favourite writers.

I often find it difficult to focus on spoken poetry. I love a good reading, but I lose concentration easily and need to see the written word to comprehend anything complex. I have, for example, heard several David Whyte poems, but prefer reading them myself for the luxury of lengthy indulgence in meaning.
9. I think poetry is like rain swelling a waterfall in the bush after a month of dry. The water is cool, clear and pure and its force grows until it can no longer be held back and breaks over the edge of the precipice, freefalling into a deep pool below.

For me the best poetry writing is like this – something vital that bursts forth naturally and fully-formed. Having it looming inside me becomes such an intense experience that it is a relief to have it out


black bank said...

I so agree with your comments about spoken poetry, which is also one reason that I don't perform my poems.
Poetry is personal experience, nothing else. Any characters that do appear in my poems, for example, are just fragments of me. BB

Jon said...

I have to agree with you on the difference between hearing poetry and reading it for myself. I do love to hear it read/recited/performed, but I tend to get more of a purely visceral enjoyment out it--like listening to a song that I don't really know the lyrics to but still enjoy. My deepest enjoyment comes from reading the poems myself, but I never have expressed why that is nearly so eloquently as you have: "[I] prefer reading them myself for the luxury of lengthy indulgence in meaning." What a beautifully poetic image!

Catherine said...

I've never liked Hone Tuwhare much. If you like "When I am an Old Woman I will Wear Purple" you might also like one by Bub Bridger which starts "I have a new red coat and I look like a fire engine"...

Pip said...

Yes - I love that one as well!

I'm relieved so many other people find spoken poetry difficult. I love poetry readings, but I find them such hard work.