My love affair with poetry is a rather new one. Going back only a year ago, the only poetry I read was what I was made to read at school or college. And I really hated it.
So If you’d said to me at the start of this year that I’d spend most of it reading and even writing poetry, I wouldn’t have believed you, but it’s the truth, and I owe that to a number of things…
Firstly, the reason I hated poetry before was mostly due to the fact it was so unbelievably boring and quite frankly, uninspiring to me. It was always very dull and long winded, and I was just completely uninterested in it. I also didn’t understand it, and that frustrated me. In college, the poetry we read got slightly more interesting however what put me off this time was not the subject matter but the fact that I felt other people we’re reading a different poem to the one that I was. The other students would interpret the poems with ease and put their ideas forward, meanwhile, I’d pretend to agree whilst scribbling down their answers to remember for the exam. I just assumed that I was kind of dense when it came to poetry, symbolism and meanings…and you know what, I still think I am kind of dense, (especially for someone who claims to be a writer!) but that’s OK. If dense is what I am, then dense is what I shall be!
For my new love of poetry, I have Sylvia Plath to thank. After finally reading The Bell Jar and absolutely adoring it (I’ll save that for another post) I decided I needed to read everything that Sylvia had ever written (another example of my obsessive tenancies for you.) Sadly, The Bell Jar is the only novel that Sylvia wrote before her death, but she did write some poetry. I bought a used copy of Ariel, my first ever poetry book, and read it cover to cover as soon as it had come in the post.
I was very confused. Once again, I didn’t really understand any of the poems…but this time, I had actually enjoyed them. It wasn’t until I read them again that I realised that I didn’t have to understand them, or rather, I could interpret them in any way I wanted. It was kind of a revelation, realising that poetry can mean anything I want it to mean. Poetry is after all like all writing, art, and art is ultimately subjective. This was my first step to realising that actually, I could write poetry too.
Secondly, I have Charles Bukowski to thank, and also Tumblr. I follow a lot of blogs on Tumblr that from time to time would reblog Bukowski quotes, and I loved every single one of them. So I decided to get something of his, and whilst I was in a bookstore shopping with a friend, his poetry book, “Love is A Dog From Hell” caught my eye. I think I read one poem in the store and decided I had to buy it. It remains some of my favourite poetry of all time even now when I have now read more and really opened my eyes to what poetry could be.
I never realised poetry did not have to rhyme. As strange as it sounds, I never realized that you could swear in a poem. That you could talk about drinking and gambling and even ‘whores’ (not that I would, but it’s nice to have the option.) And for once, I actually understood parts of what it seemed like Bukowski was trying to say with his poems. I was connected to it, it was meaningful and I enjoyed it, sometimes I would come across a poem that I would read out loud to myself over and over because it resonated with me in some way. Next thing I know I have three more of his poetry books, each better than the last.
So now I write poetry and most importantly, I adore poetry, although I still know
nothing about it really. I never listened in school when teachers would talk about rhyming patterns or poetry form because it just bored me to death, but now I don’t really think it matters. For me, writing has always been about creativity, about a release, about expressing yourself, about creating stories about anything from the strange to the beautiful. And let’s face it, rules are only there to be broken. How awful to feel confined to rules while doing something creative. I’m glad I no longer feel that way, and although I’m still a little nervous/insecure about sharing my poetry with the world (naturally every writer thinks their work is awful) I’m very glad I have a new love and passion in my life for poetry and I’m greatly enjoying discovering poets and poetry like Alice Walker and Ted Hughes.
And now I’ll leave you with one of my favourite poems by Bukowski, from the book Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame…
I’d love for you to recommend to me any poetry/poems you’d think I’d like in the comments or even poetry of your own! Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to post some of mine…