A Small Book Of Poetry
I have always written poetry. I think I was in the third grade when I first found out that many words had similar sounds.
It was a game to speak in rhymes:
Mom, Is it okay?
If I go out and play?
Mom! What do you say?
It was just a game. Then I began to rhyme the answers to questions or comments made by others. For example:
How are you today?
I am a bit upset today
I wanted to buy some modeling clay
But I was afraid to ask my mother
I’m afraid of what she would say!
It got worse. I began to respond in a sentence that was the second part of a couplet.
What would you like to eat?
How about potatoes and meat!
Sometimes my response would not meet the politically correct standards of the moment so I would smile and say something else. Perhaps my couplet was something that was not polite or a little odd. Those couplets were definitely
suppressed. Unfortunately sometimes they were hilarious
and I would break out laughing which had to be unnerving. It was in effect a private joke. I could see this left many people wondering. I so enjoyed my mental stimulation and gymnastics that I really didn’t care if I seemed a bit out of the ordinary. In fact even today I enjoy the game of making up a response to anything anyone says. I also enjoy the challenge of improvising a poem spontaneously, impromptu, extemporaneously – of the moment.
Most of the time, people don’t catch the rhyme. Did you? That won’t do.
One day years ago in the San Francisco Chronicle (in one of those two inch filler articles) it stated that compulsive rhyming was determined in the 13th century to be a mental illness. This bothered me a lot until I realized that science in the 13th century was hardly a concept, if that.
Then to my relief I read an astonishing article in the center column on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. It continued on for three pages. It was an appeal from an Irish student at Stanford requesting an Irish American Studies Program that paralleled the African American Studies Program. His argument was that the American education system was basically an English education system and the Irish were Celtic, an entirely different race from the Anglo-Saxon. He went on to define the Celtic race as a group of artists, poets and bards with an entirely different set of values for living. I read the article several times concluding that since I was Irish it was decidedly permissible to be a poet. Furthermore it was almost foreordained by genetics that I have a residue of the poetic impulse. In response to this article I declared I was Irish and a poet and no longer a
“closet poet”. In this regard, I offer my poetry knowing that since I am no longer trying to hide my poetic response to the world, it will only become richer over time.
Why do poets write poetry? I assume there are many reasons, but then I asked myself why do I write poetry?
Perhaps I want to communicate my feelings about things without having to defend them. Writing allows me to record how I feel when I feel it and having done so move on. Interestingly when I pick up a scrap of paper with a few words scratched on it I can remember my thoughts at the time. It all comes flowing back. But why poetry? I think it is enjoyable and a challenge to structure and organize my thoughts. It is not random but rather with purpose. Also I enjoy the contemplation that occurs. Often the finale results are surprising, different than my initial thoughts.
The process isn’t always the same. Sometimes a long poem will come spewing out of my mind and it is all I can do to write it down before it is gone. At other times a few lines will come to me and hang on for weeks and then are joined over time by other lines. Once in a while one line comes to mind and then another and it goes on rhythmically until it stops. It is this slow process that I enjoy most. If I don’t get it down it can go and be lost forever. Many times in those moments between sleep and being awake my mind will create beautiful and complex poems. Unfortunately most of those poems have been lost due to the fact that they were gone when I awoke. You will just have to take my word for it. They were lovely poems and they are now gone forever.
Editing occurs but again it depends on how the poem comes to me. If it is instantaneous – I leave it as it came –
no editing. My excuse is as simple as it is lame. It came from somewhere and I feel reluctant to change it in any way. Most of the poems I consider "works in progress" and they continue to evolve over time as editing is continuous. I came across a poem I wrote as a young man. I left it alone but I wrote another poem on the same concept only with a more mature understanding. I like both of them for they speak to me in a different way. To me it is an example of personal growth, evolution of my thinking and maturity.
For example two lines are floating around in my head at the moment. The other day while shopping with my wife a young lady crossed in front of us so closely that I felt the air move. She was rather plain looking, thin, a blond dressed in jeans, jean jacket and a billed cap like the army would issue. My wife said “She almost ran into us, did you recognize her? She is an actress.”
I said I didn’t recognize her but two lines of a poem formed instantly in my mind. The two lines:
I caught a whiff of her when she passed by
I also caught my reflection in her eye
I don’t know if I will ever add to those lines. It is a poem in the making that almost begs to be completed.
My daughter asks if I have ever considered “free verse”. The answer is “Yes!” I tell her I have even considered writing the “un-poem”. I tell her an un-poem doesn’t rhyme, has no meter and doesn’t necessarily have anything to say. I conclude by telling her someday I may write free verse since I am not being paid for what I write anyway.
Most of my poems are short and happy. As a general rule I don’t read long poems myself so I keep mine short. Also I
am not interested in writing things that are painful to read. I have written a few poems in response to my own sadness but those are in a book to be written another day. I find that people respond differently to my poems than I expect and often interpret them in ways I never imagined.
To answer the question: “Why do I write poetry?” I think the answer is simple: I do it for myself. I enjoy the process and the results. I am sharing my poems with you in this book and I hope you enjoy them.