President’s note: this month’s meditative blog comes courtesy of our longtime member and novelist, Patrick Meade
Where does one start on writing a poem? How do we climb inside ourselves and end up creating emotion and imagery out of a group of words? Is it like dipping a pail into a well and scooping out so many thoughts that they spill over into microscopic worlds then into a line, a stanza? Or is it like a cave with cobwebs and dust, covered thoughts and possibilities where we think, I know what I want to say but I can’t find the words. And so, we peck and persist until those moments of clarity arise.
For most I would think that whatever the process, it is a challenge. It certainly is for me. And maybe through patience, practice, and many bits of paper curled up in a corner (I save mine), a poem scribbles its way onto paper, even into a poetry book somewhere.
Another approach to writing a poem is to give permission to ourselves that we do not have to be perfect. This could involve skimming the top or even accessing the waters even deeper. At least we are attempting.
It is easy to be overwhelmed as we write but it prevents us from seeing through the debris in the cave. Maybe if we looked at the cave of imagination as a fun place to visit. An amazingly warm and trusting friend. And why shouldn’t it be? It is a veiled locker, a portal to our past. Which memories from it should we tap? Should we pause and sip whiskey and ponder yesterday in a stanza? Should we play in waves of rhyme, or free verse? Four lines or twenty-one? Maybe we can just experiment and see where that leads us. Sometimes, quite a few times in fact, I have started off in one direction and have turned around midway and have taken another more stirring approach to a certain poem.
Not being afraid to say how one feels is important. If I write only of pretty flowers and gentle breezes then I am only that until I am jolted. Tears and unkindness, torn pants, and sorrow happens. It is okay to write about hardships.
When I first attempted poetry, I hid behind clichés and overused words. Meeting other poets and joining poetry groups helped wean me away from the comfortable and safe shields of cliché. With that much armour on, I was having trouble hearing myself let alone reaching listeners or readers trying to understand me.
Over time, trials and attempts at writing poetry have given me confidence. They have allowed me to go back into my own well, not someone else’s, and pull out my own thoughts. Mind you, many times ideas have refused to come to the surface. But I guess that is why we have a pail and we control how deep it sinks. We know the path.
I have discovered that through persistence and the invitation of a poem there is so much magnificence – so many trails around us – so many wells, even caves that have gone untapped, unsearched. Waiting.