Friday, October 21, 2016

Using Poetry Even If You're Not a Poet--What Poems Do for the Creative Brain

I'm only a marginal poet.  I've had one poem published and written maybe ten others, kept in a drawer.  But I love reading poetry.  It does something weird and wonderful to my brain.

In honor of Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize for "having created new poetic expressions," I wanted to share this poetry experience and an exercise for this week. 
Recently a poet friend moved.  I visited her and took home two bags full of poetry books.   Collections from some of my favorite poets but also books on why we write and read poetry.  I'd just sent in my novel and was waiting for agent feedback so I felt kind of dry--desert-like, actually.  I wanted to get moving on the next book, all set up in Scrivener and waiting for me.  But I needed a little inspiration.

Rainy day, perfect for poetry, I thought.  I settled down with tea and the stack of books. 

Midway through the first volume, I had to get up and get a pen and paper.  Ideas for my own writing were flooding in--vastly different from the poems I was browsing but somehow inspired by them.  A small description of evening by Jane Kenyon made me remember evenings my character might have lived through, complete with the way the late summer light slanted into a room.   Stanley Kunitz urged me to look for the constellation of images that follow every writer, and I began to think of this for my characters too.  What images followed them around in their lives?

Your weekly writing exercise is to grab a poetry book and spend twenty minutes immersing yourself.  You may not like the poems--or any poetry, for that matter.  But the rhythm of poems may unlock something beautiful in your brain.

If you'd like to do this right now, click on these links:

30 great poems everyone should read