Write After Reading: Writing the Life Poetic (Chapters 1 and 3)

It’s here! Write After Reading: Living the Life Poetic is a weekly online book club with poetry participation. It will alternate between my blog and Susan Taylor Brown’s blog .

Now. I’m just hoping we haven’t built this up TOO much. I’d hate for you to have overly high expectations, because I’m seeing this as a fun, casual conversation.

Some of you have already read Chapters 1 and 3. If not, close this Tab and go read them–they’re short:>)

Welcome back. Chapter 1: Why Read and Write Poetry?, really resonates with me. I didn’t start writing poetry until about 1998 or so, so I came to poetry late. And it started pouring out of me when I was attempting to dig into the emotions around a family medical crisis. I didn’t mean to write poems; they’re just what came out. So it was interesting for me to think about this question this week. Here’s what I came up with as some of my top reasons for writing poems.

1) They let me process the world, both good and bad.
2) They let me ruminate and analyze to my heart’s content.
3) They challenge my habit of doing things “right.“
4) Most importantly for me, they’re the opposite of small talk. I hate small talk. I stink at small talk. Poetry is looking at the tiny moments most people overlook and finding the meaning in them. It’s all about what really matters to you.

      

What about you? Why do you read and/or write poetry! How did you start? When? Why? Inquiring minds (ok, me, Susan, and the other WARs) want to know!

OK, on to Chapter 3 (most weeks, we’ll do just one chapter!): Start Where You Are. I admit my life is so unromantic and unscholarly that I have trouble identifying myself as a poet. Do you? Or does it come naturally to you?

But I love what Cohen says in this chapter. When I was presenting at the Poetry Blast at ALA in Chicago in 2009, a bunch of us poets were there early, and a guy on the hotel’s maintenance crew was working in the room. He asked what was going on, and when we told him, he said, “Oh, I write poems sometimes.” I loved that! This was a kind of shaggy guy, very unassuming, and he writes poems. Poets are everywhere: at your school, on your block, at your workplace, and right in the very chair you’re sitting in. It’s one of the things I love best about poetry. Though I’m not sure why it’s so easy for me to accept the poet in everyone else but struggle sometimes to see a poet in me. Hmmm.

Anyhoo. Let’s do the final Chapter 3 exercise from page 13.

“Think of someone you see regularly in passing but do not know well, such as your mail carrier, barista or neighbor. Write a poem that imagines what his life might be like:

* Who does he love?
* What has he lost?
* What do his pajamas look like?
* What are his aspirations?
* What does he eat for breakfast?”

I hope you’ll do this exercise and leave it in a comment. Don’t judge–just try it! My mind is totally blank right now, but I’m going to go write a poem in a comment right now. It’s just an exercise. A first draft. A discipline.

So leave a poem. Comment on anything in my post or from these two chapters. Jump in with your own questions that relate to these chapters. And of course talk to each other, too! It’s just an open conversation, and we’re glad you’re here to share it.

Susan Taylor Brown will be hosting next week, by the way, and if you’d like to read ahead, she’ll be posting on Chapter 7: Thirteen Ways of Looking.

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