Fellow blogger and reviewer, Janet Sketchley, sent a review of a book of poetry this week. I loved the fluid nature of the words the poet used, the rhythm, and the word pictures she painted. All in free verse.
While I mentioned to Janet in a personal note that I do enjoy reading well-formed rhyming poetry (Indian Summer, Campbell; Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost; The Song my Paddle Sings, E. Pauline Johnson, to name a few), I do not usually write in rhyme myself. And I found myself wondering, how many of those poets’ work remained in a drawer unseen because the poem did not work out the way they hoped. Happens to writers, poets alike. I have many of both.
“Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village, though’
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow…”
-Robert Frost, Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening
There are many gifted poets, and as a poet, I am a student of poetry, with a shelf of poetry books to pull out and read.
I’ve bookmarked a good lot of them with special favourites to go back to. Having been associated with Tower Poetry Society for a number of years, and in the past year have had opportunity to join in their monthly (virtual) workshops, I’ve met even more poets in our home province.
Poetry can be a harder sell than a work of fiction, for example, since it does not translate well to other languages that have their own expressions, their own language and rhythms. I noticed this in some of the poetry reading sessions online this summer with Laurier, McMaster and Western university students when I had opportunity to join in as a Tower poet. There’s promise in so much of their work and many of them perform their pieces as poetry slam without words in front of them.
And yet there are other poets worthy of mention too, both ancient and historic. People quote the Persian poet, Rumi, who seems to be as much philosopher, while I might quote Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Psalm by David in the Bible.
In a minimum of words, the 23rd psalm is both metaphoric and picturesque. Scenes of water, of rest on the hillside, of promises of a full table and restoration. How calming. Of all the psalms in the book, that is probably my favourite for its promises and musical arrangement of words—words in motion.
Poetry then can be a song, a recitation, a string of words that work together to make an image, with a rhythmic beat to hold it all together. And for those who think they don’t get poetry, much of our music is poetry.
Next time you sing a song or hymn, pay attention to the words and the way they work together. Next time you read a poem, pay attention to the rhythm… and you will find words in motion.
Carolyn R. Wilker
Author, editor, storyteller