Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Effect of Poetry

Since the New Year started (with its grand importance and suitable capitalisation), I took to writing poetry a lot more often. Because I wanted to write every day this year, it was necessary to force myself to do something before going to sleep. Easier said than done, especially if you're tired and/or intoxicated. (But that only really happened once...)

However, turning on my laptop late at night isn't generally considered a good idea. From experience I know that I would end up awake a couple of hours after I had planned to go to sleep, probably with an early start the next day, and it's possible that in those two hours I wouldn't write a single word (beyond looking things up on YouTube...). Often, I can't even be bothered to take out my tablet and keyboard and write a blog post (though that has happened in the past), so I turn to the only other option: I pick up a notepad and a pen, and I force myself to write a poem.

Two or three years ago, this wouldn't have produced much. More recently, it's helped me explore some thoughts and feelings that I had refused to deal with for months. Rather than insisting on bottling things up for the sake of it, only for it all to come out in one big burst of emotion, I've been letting myself lash out through poetry, ranting and raving (and moaning...sometimes...) about the things that are bothering me, and masking it all in metaphor...because poetry.

(Yes, I am aware that not all poetry requires metaphor, in the same way that not all poetry requires rhyme or rhythm or any of the fun little things teachers are required to have students find in the published poetry of prescribed poets. However, for the simple sake of making things easier on myself emotionally, I use what sense I have left at midnight to create a semblance of a veil over the truth. Raw emotion, at that hour, is bound to result in some sort of trouble. And that one time when I was drunk and writing a poem, I made the inebriated decision to avoid talking about whatever feelings I was experiencing and talk about the fact that I was drunk, instead. To this day I don't know how I managed to even hold the pen, nevermind pen the poem.)

What all of this has done for me, however, goes beyond mere therapy. While I cannot deny that it has helped me to de-stress and to deal with some things that were on my mind, that's not the only thing I've found has been a result of writing poetry in an increasing quantity.

Most notably among the other effects of poetry has been its affect on my sense of language, and the way in which I care to express myself. It has been subtle, but finding words has been easier in the past few months than it has been for a long time. A similar effect takes hold when I write a large amount of fiction in a short period of time, though keeping up the writing of longer fiction while having essays and reflections to write for college on a weekly basis is hard to justify with what little time I am left with at the end of the average day.

To this end, I have avoided writing longer fiction for a while, preferring to focus on short chapters of non-fiction books, blog posts, and poetry, all with the aim of producing something, keeping words fresh in my mind, and exploring new ideas and concepts that writing fiction for years on end did not help with. I don't regret spending so much time writing fiction,  and nor will I stop writing it, but it has been nice to get a change of pace and find new ways of using the words at my disposal. While I can't boast to having the most extensive vocabulary in the world, writing has helped me to at least utilize the words I have in a more coherent and expressive way. Poetry has helped me to play upon my strengths, to pick the words I use with more imagination and consideration, rather than using excessively convoluted language for the mere sake of it.

(It has also helped to realise when I accidentally enter a mode of irony... why I've been using words such as "convoluted" in this post, I do not know, but I personally find it funny that that was the word I chose to use at the time. For the record, it wasn't even a word I thought about until sixth year, when a friend of mine defined a complicated word as "unnecessarily convoluted", to much laughter from the rest of the class. We don't know if he did it for a joke, or if that's just how he thought of the word, but "convoluted" has stuck with me to this day as a result.)

Poetry has also, rather by accident, become the most shared genre of writing in the Feedback Forums at college. This has, consequentially, allowed for many of us to discuss certain things that had been bothering us at one point or another, even if just to highlight their existence. It has brought a group of us closer together, and it has made writing much more communal than it has previously been. There was nothing more exciting in my week than getting to read and listen to poetry with my friends once a week, and that, too, comes as a result of writing poetry more this year than ever before. Most of what I have shared with the group has been written in the past three months, and of late I have brought several entirely new pieces per week, simply because I had an inkling to share them instead of the previous work.

With all of this in mind, I cannot help but recommend that you try it, too, to write poetry before you go to bed, or when you wake up. I don't always have an idea of what I will write, and often just decide to put pen to paper and see what comes out. Sometimes the metaphor exists before I even understand what it is I want to say, and other times I know what I want to say but haven't yet figured out how. It has become easier, during the year, to perform this practice of poetry, and this coming from someone whose production of poetry this year has bested his previous attempts from the previous three years (both in quality and the accumulative quantity of poems). Don't set out to write the next award winning poem. Just write, and see what happens. You might even enjoy it.

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