I used to view poetry as part of a very separate creative process from writing prose. Clearly, writing and word crafting was involved, but in the great Venn diagram of the arts, I would (almost) always argue that poetry was much closer to performance art or song. I preferred to hear poems spoken aloud, wherever possible, by their creators. I had little interest in sitting down and reading a book of poems, so why would anyone want to read a book of mine?
One afternoon, while at a group poetry reading, I was looking around the room at all the different faces and wondering who was really listening and immersed, and who was merely waiting for their turn to speak. The very best poet I saw that day was a young woman who simply stood up and spoke. She had memorised her lines and needed no book to read from. She was passionate, excited and totally at one with the moment. Her enthusiasm was infectious and I felt, as an audience member, that I was being permitted to receive a piece of her raw piece emotion as she spoke.
Her poetry was so good, not simply because I was able to identify with the content and themes therein, but because the poem inspired something within me. I recognised those emotions, separate from the words that were offered to me. The connection transferred from writer to reader — or in this case, listener — whereupon I was able to digest and decode it. In that moment, a penny dropped for me, and I wanted to seek out more poems to read and enjoy in my own time.
I write, and have always written, poems on a regular basis. I write poems when I absolutely need to extract something emotional out of me, when prose is not appropriate or fulfilling. My poems focus strongly on feelings, family, my experiences and the space I occupy in the world. They look across the spectrum of human emotions and are always deeply personal. Love, hate, fear, loss, friendship, longing, experience and observation. These are just a few of the forces that drive us as human beings, that help us to recognise the creative urges inside ourselves. What I do as a writer is open the door for others to walk through.
The more I explore how the creative process happens for me, the more I believe poetry is a gateway. One of many tools you can utilise to access and process feelings, while playing around with language and focus. The increase in popularity of visual poems posted on social media such as Instagram has allowed more writers than ever the use of a platform to write and share their thoughts. For me, successful poetry is one that makes me feel something, feel connected. Even if that feeling is “I don’t like it,” I want to be able to explore why I don’t. I want to delve deep into that connection.
Poems don’t have to be amazingly well-written, follow any rules, make Earth-shattering revelations, or even make any sense to anyone but their creators. Writers often chase the prize of perfection, but I’ve never really known what that is. A poem is finished for me when I feel happy enough to send it out into the world without needing to “write for return” — when feedback and acceptance are irrelevant.
Poems help me find and flex my creative muscles, and allow me space to find a meaningful connection with my reader, one which is often easier, faster and more accessible than other forms of writing. I see poetry as a glorious tool, bringing together the emotional connections we crave and thrive upon as creative human beings.
You can download my poetry collections in EPUB format at Smashwords where you decide the price, or you can read them both online as PDFs right here. (Click on the covers to open the pdf in your browser window.)