I was terrified of poetry when we began the unit. I hated the idea of having to do it and all I could feel was an incredible sensation of pressure. I didn’t want to mess with meter, form, image, special language that sounded fresh. Poems always appeared to be such refined little packets of supreme knowledge and beauty; the poets that I had read in school were masters of saying something new in an absolutely unique way. I chose to respond to Ezra Pound for the first assignment because he more than any other poet captured so much with so little in “In a Station of the Metro.” I remember reading this poem in my lit class and being in awe of what he had accomplished. This assignment, though, helped to solidify my fear and disdain of poetry (my own, that is, not the genre as a whole).
The prose snapshots and the subsequent character sketch poem exacerbated the problem. The snapshots made me feel nostalgic for the good ole days of creative non-fiction and fiction when we tried to investigate character and create a passage capturing a person. Having to do this again in poetry frustrated me because a) i thought my poetry was shit b) i didn’t like poetry one bit so the process was bound to be at least slightly painful c) i felt like my description of character and memory didn’t match up to how well i could express similar goals in prose. However, the exercise did make me think about what it takes to build a character or memory in a poem and make it real for the reader.
The meter exercise frustrated me as well. “Convey a sense of meaning with meter” confused me, I really had no idea what I was doing. I ended up thinking relatively simply about it: by creating disruptions of general meter i could change the meaning of certain lines because these lines wouldn’t agree with the rest of the poem. Although not incredibly ambitious, it was a big step for me. At this point, though, I still hated poetry, it still clawed at me and refused to cooperate.
The poem translation exercise was a turning point for me. I didn’t feel obliged to create something fantastic with incredible meaning; the original author had already accomplished that for me. I just focused on the general length of the words, the line breaks, line lengths, and punctuation, and then played around. I found myself worrying less and actually enjoying the process. I sank into the author’s work a little bit. When i was finished, I looked at the actual translation and saw that I had written almost the same poem as the author. Although his was infinitely better being that it was a published poem he must have spent many hours on, I still felt like I had succeeded. I had connected with the poet and done something very similar to him. This made poetry feel slightly less indomitable and made me feel more free to fool around throughout the rest of the unit.
Rewriting the Kafka piece as a poem was actually fun (again, big step, whoah…). The subject matter felt like it should have been a poem; I feel like myths are in some ways meant to be poems. Maybe Homer did that to me. Anyway, I was surprised to find myself playing with the poem in a way similar to playing with silly putty. I felt that familiar joy from fiction (and a bit, non-fiction) and multi-media of being the architect and building something new.
My free choice poem about the robins continued to help me build my momentum of poetic enjoyment. Barbara had stated repeatedly that we didn’t have to write about anything “important” and to just have fun with poetry. One day while walking around campus I saw two robins fooling around and I was entranced by it. So I wrote a poem about it. I tried to capture the movement I saw with choices in punctuation, line length, line break, and the flow of the poem. Once again the pressure was slightly less than before. Poetry was becoming kind of fun.
I decided to challenge myself for the art-based poem. I tried to capture a Frida Kahlo painting in both free verse and the form of a sonnet. I thought it would be fun to take something as chaotic and non-conventional and unorganized as a Frida painting and fit it into a mold that screams of organization. I think I failed miserably. There was so much to try and express, I found that I was struggling to pick one theme to write about. My poems jumped around a bit and ignored a lot of the painting. I guess you could say I was successful too, though, because I did manage to capture one perspective on the painting and put it into the form of a poem.
Writing in couplets was much more fun than the sonnet. The restrictions were less. I was comforted by the framework of form that was necessary in the assignment as it gave me some direction, but it wasn’t so overwhelming as the sonnet that it would “stifle my creativity.” I found that the form gave a lot to the poem. More gravity to the lines, to the stanza breaks. It opened my eyes more to what form could do for a poem than the sonnet did, partly because I was more comfortable putting something of my own into a tight form rather than another artist’s creativity.
Narrative vs. Confessional showed me what different voices could do for a poem. Personally, I preferred the confessional because it allowed the reader a more specific experience.
What really makes me think of this unit as a success is the course evaluation we filled out yesterday. We all chose to write a poem/story instead of conforming to the mold. One of the words of the group that we chose from personal universe decks was neuralgiam or something, and at first I just thought “no way, I’m leaving this one out.” But then I just said fuck it and went at the poem in earnest. I totally let go of my inhibitions, fears, and pressures that had always been present in some form or another throughout the unit. I got into what I was writing and just went with it, felt it, just wrote where and what seemed right. It was exciting. That I could feel that freeing exhilaration from something I originally regarded with hatred and fear tells me that I learned something during the poetry unit.