Originally Blogging the Artist's Way. Thoughts, musings, experience of the 12-week course, January to March 2006. And after that?.... Life, creativity, writing. Where does it all meet? Here, perhaps.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Poetry Thursday - Personal Poetry

Well, there's a Post Title to send people running for the hills! Don't we all dread the times when we get stuck with an enthusiast armed with pamphlet, declaiming their poetry about the dog who died, the childhood that's long gone, the loves mislaid (or otherwise lost), misery, sadness - the entire human condition, as exemplified in their own lives? Do we?

The question we're asked to consider this week at Poetry Thursday is about "maybe just putting some thought into how this kind of poem (confessional or personal poetry) might fall flat, or on the other hand, might be so powerful and universal that it changes someone's life, truly changes someone's response to pain and circumstances.” - For there is the other side of personal poetry. - For every instance you find which leaves you cold, there is also one that illuminates an aspect of life, touching the heart in a way that no other literary form does.

To me, confessional poetry, when it's done well - when it rises above simply the telling of the story of some event in the poet's life, and hints at the universal emotions within the story - allows the reader, if they have never shared that experience in real life, to experience now the emotion involved; and if they have had the experience dealt with in the poem, very often they will find that the poem expresses the emotion inherent in it so perfectly and completely that they wonder how the poet knew what they had felt.

I have read poems and wondered how that poet knew my heart, my feelings so well. That is to me the key - that the poem deals with a personal experience in a way that others can identify with it, empathise and imagine that the experience is their own.

When Poetry Thursday began, my intention was to alternate between sharing well-known poets' work and my own, and then, when we were reminded of the necessity to obtain permission to publish copyrighted work, it seemed, I'll confess, too much trouble to go seeking permission, so I've slipped into the habit of offering my own poetry over the last few posts, and somewhere in the back of my mind was a nagging little voice saying "people are going to get sick, sick, sick of hearing about your marriage break-up" It was in poems. It was seeping into Sunday Scribblings, and still, very often, whatever prompt was being offered would seem to lead me in the direction of a piece of writing drawing on that experience. I have an entire sequence of break-up poems I call (very originally!) the Parting Sequence. Never published. Perhaps never will be, they were mainly written during the first few months of our separation. Maybe people who have been through the end of a relationship would relate to many of them, considering that they convey a feeling they had also felt. I haven't read any of them in public, not trusting myself to maintain composure, but there was a need to have them validated - heard in some way - so I asked for time from one of my writers' groups to read them. My colleagues all spoke of how polished and complete the poems seemed (although I hadn't done any editing work on them).

These ramblings don't really help me come up with a definitive answer to the question - What makes a poem powerful enough to change someone's life, change their response to circumstances? I only know that they do. I know when I read Pablo Neruda, when I pick through an anthology like Staying Alive, or consider the wonderful work of John Fox in the field of Poetry Therapy that I have felt the impact of a poem on my spirit, have felt the lift that comes with knowing that another soul has been in the place mine now is, or mine can feel itself in.

Here are some words of Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney:
"The virtue of poetry, of art in general, resides in the fact that it is first and foremost a whole thing, a hale thing, a thing formally and feelingly sound, right within itself, a thing to which the ultimate response - if not always the immediate response - is 'yes'. And this yes comes from an assent that is as bodily as it is anything else. The viewer, the listener, the audience recognise that something has come through to them intact, or perhaps better say they recognise that something has been brought through to them and brought home..." ("The Good of Poetry, Eisteach, Winter, 2004)

There, for me, is the key. When a personal or confessional poem draws out a Yes in me, a knowing, then it has transcended mere marks on paper and become something that is transmitting a complete feeling. (Am I really trying to paraphrase the above and make it more sensible?) You know the poem that you respond to with "Aaaah"? That's the poem that is doing it for me. The poem that causes a vibration in my sternum. The poem that finds me nodding, saying Yes, Yes, Yes.

My offering of poetry for this week is a suggestion that you follow the link to John Fox, above, and enjoy his poems there. I was lucky enough to do a short workshop with him a few years ago, and gained so much from it, not just as a poet, but as a therapist and for myself personally. He is a beautiful soul, and a wonderful poet.


At 6/7/06 6:58 pm, Blogger pepektheassassin said...

A well-written, thoughtful post. Thank you.

At 6/7/06 7:04 pm, Blogger Cate said...

"I have read poems and wondered how that poet knew my heart, my feelings so well."

This is exactly how I felt when I read "In Crepe Paper."

Such a pleasure to read this intuitive post! xo

At 6/7/06 8:30 pm, Blogger Wenda said...

Just took some time to catch up on your recent entries and though I haven't stopped to comment on every post, I've enjoyed reading each one. I particularly like your last two poems and your prose always mesmerizes me. Sounds like you are wide awake to me.

At 6/7/06 8:33 pm, Blogger Star said...

Well said.

I'm glad you're continuing on with your writing here.

At 6/7/06 9:48 pm, Blogger Becca said...

A resounding "Yes!" to your insights about poetry. And "yes" is definitely the feeling I get when I read something (prose or poetry) that resonates with the deepest feelings in my heart and mind. I think it's sort of the "Amen" of the writing world - an acknowlegment that a universal truth has been exprssed. I'm off to follow your to John Fox...

At 7/7/06 12:56 am, Blogger jim said...

Yes, yes, yes. And thank you for leading me to a new poet!

At 7/7/06 2:01 am, Blogger liz elayne said...

"when a poem draws out a yes in me"

oh my dear, this is why i started reading poetry. that moment, standing in a bookstore, reading in bed, curled up on the couch, that moment when i nod my head or gasp out loud...that moment. yes. this is poetry to me. it is always about the personal in its own way.
thank you for sharing your thoughts here. now i am off to click on Poetry Therapy...because that sounds like a place i would like to pitch a tent.

At 7/7/06 2:58 am, Blogger Dana said...

and if they have had the experience dealt with in the poem, very often they will find that the poem expresses the emotion inherent in it so perfectly and completely that they wonder how the poet knew what they had felt.


Your post is great. I love hearing your thoughts on what makes this type of poem a success. I get chills when something resonates for me, whether I've experienced it or not ~ as long as the telling puts me in that moment.

At 7/7/06 8:52 pm, Blogger Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Thank you for coming to my blog. I enjoyed your thoughts on personal poetry. Very good. :-)

At 8/7/06 12:52 am, Blogger Amber said...

Thank you so much for what you said on my blog today. It really made me smile, and happy I went ahead and shared. It is so nice to see you around again. :) I hope you stay. I like to read about Ireland, and all your thoughts and musings...


At 8/7/06 4:03 am, Blogger deirdre said...

Reading this gave me enough courage to post my own poem last night. I'm still a little scared about how personal it is, but trying to stay with some sense of knowledge that I'm not the only one feeling dark things, that a common human experience may come through. Thank you for helping me.

At 8/7/06 11:14 am, Blogger Libra Larki said...

Nice blogs!
very beautiful collage artworks!

At 8/7/06 1:39 pm, Anonymous tinker said...

Thank you for the link - even though I've only read a little bit so far, I'm enjoying it. I believe art - all of the arts - has the power to help us heal our souls - whether it's our own or we're experiencing another's. Good post.

At 8/7/06 5:26 pm, Blogger Jen said...

hello greenishlady:
a link for you!


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