We live in a culture that is both word wealthy and impoverished. We enjoy greater access to information, ideas, and each other than ever before. On the other hand, we spend a great deal of time rushing around and fretting about opportunities. The good things in life haven’t changed: looking into the eyes of loved ones, sharing a few belly laughs, helping others meet life’s challenges, and making a few improvements as we pass through. Once we’ve engaged in these worthy endeavors and tried to make a living, we feel pretty much spent. So why allot any of of our precious resources to writing poetry? Isn’t it terribly unprofitable? Shouldn’t we order our priorities for success? Isn’t poetry a bit of a waste for the average person?
I think not. I believe that quietude and reflection offer unparalleled benefits. Our culture does not lend itself to either of these. Poetry inherently provides space for silent discernment. Silent discernment illuminates our perspectives. In this way poetry counters the frantic social static that pervades today. Those who write poems value their unproductive time because it gives them a chance to watch life unfold and to articulate truths about our human condition.
Writers rarely experience boredom! I can’t claim that you won’t feel restless, though. On the up-side, that gnawing urge to live life more fully can motivate you to create if you pair it with discipline and reflection. How will you make use of your restless spirit? Will you use it as fuel for your creativity?
I encourage you to clear out a small space within to let your ideas flourish. You will walk around with an inner fire that will allow you to see richness where before you saw nothing.
Weekly exercise 1: Gathering Tinder
Poetry above all involves attentiveness to sensory details and the abstract truths they reveal. Before attempting to craft poems, let’s develop a habit of capturing details that speak to us. Spend this week scribbling or typing into a journal a list of compelling sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and physical feelings. Keep it simple — you are just collecting the stuff that you will later use to fuel your poetic fire!