Back from a short hiatus, Sunday Poetry is a new series this spring. Each week, I’ll post a poem that I’ve been thinking about, whether mine or someone else’s. Tune in for an exploration of how poetry can interrupt and enrich our lives when we least expect it to.
April 21: short poems
A student recently talked to me about poetry (first– can I take a moment to think about how amazing it is that teenagers talk to me about how poetry works? And that another student sent me an email with the subject “A poem I wrote but don’t want you to share with anyone”? This life of mine is a treasure).
Okay, back to the question at hand– she was wondering how to write or what to write about now that she’s doing well and she’s in a supportive, healthy relationship. How do we write about joy? She identified that it requires a shift of mindset, and maybe a different way of writing altogether.
This reminded me of The Secret Sisters Tiny Desk Concert in which the sisters mention that now that they’re married and happily settled, they don’t know what to write about anymore.
And I’ve been in this place too. When everything seems fine, there’s nothing too interesting to write about. There’s no pain that needs to be expunged. So, no new poems?
The great thing about poetry (one little great among many many) is that it can be used to notice the smallest moments and not to reflect the overall trajectory or mood of a life. That’s where short poems come in. There are still interesting tensions and contradictions within joy and peace. Here’s one of mine:
how can love happen any other way
like a fast otter surfacing joyfully midstream
twitching its whiskers
shaking water freely
about to dive deep in its search for clams?
I originally wrote a second stanza, about springtime and being in love, but it felt canned. And I’m still toying with the question mark. Is the poem compact enough to viably be one sentence?
So to answer my student – our poetry changes when our lives shift in new directions. Most of my poems until quite recently, have been in the same length range, but I’m trying my hand at shorter poems and longer poem sequences. Maybe this is because I write more regularly, and am more willing to revisit poems. That first length range feels comfortable because it is the stretch of time I need to get something important out. Poetry seems less urgent now, because I can trust that it will be there whenever I need it.
Our poetry may change, but it is still ours.