Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting Poetry Back Into My Life

I'm a goal-setting sort of gal. I'm motivated by lists, challenges with specific outcomes, daily habits. They are promises to myself that I will continue to grow and build and get "better" (however I'm defining "better" just now). I'm my own team of mad scientists making me into Steve Austin:

And it works for me. I challenged myself on Goodreads to read 52 books (one a week) and I did. I'm going to do it again this year. I challenged myself to write every day and I've done it for 1200+ days now and plan to keep on trucking along. I challenged myself to do the Couch to 5K and I did it, sort of (I still can't run every step of it, but I am doing a run/walk combo three miles two or three times a week now).

I can't explain the psychology of this and why it works so well on me. Maybe I'm still just that good girl who wants all gold stars on her chart. Maybe it's a career in education making me appreciate measurable goals and progress. Maybe I just appreciate the orderliness of it in an aesthetic sense.

But it clearly does work for me. I do things I wouldn't have done otherwise when I've taken on a challenge.

So, for 2017, I picked two new challenges: one weekly and one daily. The weekly is to try a new recipe every week. (If you're interested, you can view the collection of posts about that here).

The new daily is to read (and write about) one poem every day.

Poetry used to be my thing, from about age six to about age thirty-five. I wrote a lot of it; I read even more of it. But I drifted away from it in my writing life when I made the switch to prose and began writing novels.

Prose writing scratches a similar itch for me in writing, but I'm finding that I really miss reading poetry. The elder daughter found Walt Whitman recently in a high school class, and when we talked about his work, quoting favorite lines and interpreting them, it sparked a longing in me to get back to poetry.

Poetry touches me as a reader differently than prose. I love the immediacy. The gut-punch of a line or the mind expanding image. The extreme that feels more true than truth. The beauty is more beautiful, the ugly uglier, the pain more painful, and the joy more ecstatic. The best of poetry is words on drugs without the life-destroying side effects.

Getting poetry back into my life has been even better than I thought it would be. I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to find a poem that speaks to you, that says what you are feeling, that makes you see the world differently. It's like falling in love, making a new friend, holding a baby and looking into her eyes. It expands and contracts the world all in the same moment, to the most universal and the most specific at once.

So, get thee to a library. Reading a poem doesn't take long, typically. But it can change your day, or even your life.


  1. What an awesome way to handle goals. That approach doesn't work for me, but we all have a different process, eh? I wrote poetry like crazy in college, which turned to lyrics as I started into music composition...but it's been a long time. It would be fun to dust some of that stuff off and rekindle the fire.

    1. I'm really enjoying getting back in as a reader, instead of a writer.

  2. It sounds like you'll be busy this year! Good luck with your challenge!

  3. I can't say I've ever been a big fan of poetry, though a few pieces do stick out in my mind. Most of them by the likes of Frost and Whitman.

    Recently I've been researching poets who were popular in Regency England since poetry was big in those times. They didn't have radio or music like we do, and poetry filled that spot. Keats and Byron were two popular poets of the day. It's interesting to see how my interpretation of poetry has changed over the years, and I think I'm able to enjoy it better now than before.