Ocean Park Poetry

This past week was devoted entirely to the art of writing. I checked into an old inn on the beach in Ocean Park City, got some ice cream cones from the local Soda Fountain, and spent my days in a New England community center (read: a big, square, wooden building) listening to presenters on topics ranging from How to Get a Literary Agent to writing the modern sonnet. In sum, it was a pretty nice week.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that poetry is not my thing. Imagine my surprise that what was most rewarding was, in fact, the poetry. In the past, the poetry I’ve written has been graded, and we were always being pushed to have perfect iambic pentameter, not to force rhymes, not to use cliched images. That was all beneficial to force me to write better poetry; my rhymes weren’t forced and my images weren’t cliched. But this week, without the threat of grade and with the reward of sharing my poetry in an encouraging environment, I found myself having fun being a poet, and I was even proud of some of the things I produced.

The rules still exist even when I’m not being graded, but the flexibility afforded to me by this conference allowed me to play with the rules, break them, and be aware that I was doing so. Maybe it’s like swearing: you don’t want kids cussing because they don’t fully understand what those words mean or the implications and consequences of using them, but once you’re an adult and you’ve learned what those words do in a conversation, you have the right to use them.

I became more fond of poetry this past week, and for that reason alone, the conference was worth it. I look forward to going to others to see what else I can be inspired to do.

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The End of Poetry

Today I turned in my poetry portfolio. I went into the class wary of this thing called poetry for it never seems to say what it wants to say, it obfuscates perfectly beautiful rhymes just for meaning, and, well, why not just write a story? But after ten weeks of reading and writing poetry, I have gained an appreciation for it, even the kind that doesn’t follow rhyme or rhythm. I’m still not sure I will read it for fun, but if I have someone to discuss a poem with, I hope I will continue to get enjoyment out of it.

In an earlier post, I spoke of my preference for rhymed poetry over other kinds. This still holds true for when I’m reading it, but now that I’ve written poems that had to rhyme, let me tell you: it’s hard! I’ll have a perfectly beautiful idea to express, but because it has to be in pentameter and rhyme with “lock”, I’ll have to reword it so it practically means something else. So I’ll sit back and admire those who can do it artfully, but if I ever have to write a poem again, it’s going to be in free verse.

The other big thing I learned this quarter is that poetry is all about images. At least the poetry that sticks with me, and the poetry of mine that people liked best, was filled with images that show ideas instead of telling. This lesson I will definitely be able to take with me in writing prose.

So now it’s the end of the quarter, and I can shut those poetry books and cap my pen. I’ve learned a lot, but I don’t think I’ll be writing poetry on my own anytime soon. If you’re interested, I’ve added the four final poems I submitted to a separate tab.