|JUMP by Martha Slavin (watercolor and gesso)|
On display at Pacific Art League's Annual Members Exhibit through November
I've let my poetry slipthrough my fingers
down a mixed river
of watercolor and ink
to come to rest on a sandbar
Waiting like a seed to sprout again.
I think of poetry as the watercolor of writing. It is hard, it takes practice and a lot of work to create vibrant, vivid words that can describe feelings and images succinctly. I know many people who don't read poetry. I know some poems that seem so obtuse they become puzzles left for someone to try to piece together.
For a while, I was writing poetry frequently. Like painting with watercolors, I stopped when other interests pulled me away. But I recently read a poem by Stanley Kunitz called The Layers, which brought back my interest. One line, in particular, caught my breath.
"How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?"
"Feast of losses." Phrases and sentences like this contradiction grab me, pull me up short, make me sigh. I want to try to write poems again.
How could I start writing poetry again?
First, I started making lists. The subject lines of spam emails can become starter poems as these do:
Meet Your Best Matches
Gun Shows Sell Explosives
What Exxon Knew
Saudi Refugees Flee
Your Destiny Is Calling You
How to Protect Your Home
Secrets of Pond Turtles
Next, I pulled out Kenneth Koch's book, Teaching Children to Write Poetry, which I had used in my classroom a long time ago. Koch inspired kids to write poems by asking them questions or giving them the first words of a line which he then had them repeat over and over again.
His first prompt starts with the line, "I wish..." Many of the children answered with wishes for riches, not to have to go to school, or about arguments with others, but one young person wrote,
"I wish I had a home of my own."
That is what poetry does. Tugs at your heart, opens your memories, makes you see something in a new way, just as a painting can, a word painting.
What do you wish for?
Find out about Stanley Kunitz and read his book of poems and prose: The Wild Braid
Check out Kenneth Koch's books at https://www.harpercollins.com/9780060955090/wishes-lies-and-dreams/
He also has a book called I Never Told Anybody: Teaching Poetry Writing to Old People