When I was 7 and 8 years old I used to write these amazing stories. My mom cherished them and kept them all in a folder. One day when I was a few years older, I found them, and realized they did not always make sense and that there were quite a few spelling errors and who knows what else. Much to my mother's complete and total horror, I sat down on the kitchen floor and began erasing the stories to try to "improve" them.
When my mother found me, I had never before experienced her in such a state of shock and disappointment and heartbreak. Her reaction freaked me out, tbh. I thought I was improving them, making them better. What my mother knew, and what I would not realize until nearly a decade later, was that school had instilled in me hardcore that to "improve" something meant that it had to be logical, grammatically correct, it had to be able to take place in real life, it had to be written in a certain way and in a certain pattern.
In other words, I had learned to let go of creativity and imagination.
Fast forward to my junior year in high school. I signed up to take a creative writing elective by one of my favorite teachers. It seemed like a fun way to fill in that 3rd period 90 minute block every day. Mrs. G had us writing from our hearts, from our souls. I was not sure I could even do that. What did that look like exactly? Didn't someone need to tell me what to do like every other subject in school? Weren't there RULES?
Thankfully, the biggest rule Mrs. G had was to get things turned in on time. She allowed us to get creative, and slowly but surely, I realized I did still have lots of creativity inside of me. It had lain dormant, but I was able to get in there. We started off slow by writing our autobiography and getting all of the "junk" we held inside out so that creativity could find a place within us to nest. Next, we wrote a children's book. This allowed us to come up with any story that we wanted to, as long as it fit the format of being for children. It needed a beginning, a middle, and an end, but the in-between was all up to us and wherever our imaginations could take us. I wrote a story about a small bird who wanted to learn to fly, and eventually learns that all he needed was to believe in himself. Looking back, I think this was probably a metaphor for my life and the journey I myself was taking.
The final assignment of the semester was an anthology. In this anthology we could include any work that we had, any work that we wanted to create. Mine was chock full of poems. There was a couple of essays, but it was mostly, as I said, poems. The reason for this? I was reading TONS of poetry - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe (I had memorized most of The Raven), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Langston Hughes, Anne Sexton, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Lord Byron, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou. I had fallen in love with the format, which at the time I took to mean short, sweet, and to the point, but in a seriously elegant way.
Reading all these great poets (though noticeably not very ethnically diverse), I became inspired and creativity just flowed out of me in a river of stanzas. I experimented with rhyming couplets and quatrains ( favorites at that age), haikus, acrostics, ballads, limericks, lyrics, panegyric and odes, free verse, occasional poems about particular events (the war in Kosovo one of my topics), and I even wrote a poetic elegy about my grandparents. While it is obvious that they are poems written by a 17, 18-year-old (and sometimes I swear I was not even on a teenage level - some are yikes! awful), creativity was flowing out my fingertips. I rather miss my muse and I am hoping that reading lots of poetry this month will jumpstart my creativity again like it did all those years ago.
I would love to share with you a few of the poems I wrote during this time. Please note they are not very good, but the point is I was writing, and experimenting, and CREATING.
I believe this one was inspired by some Anne Bradstreet poems I read:
As you can tell, this is not really my voice. I was experimenting, and that is fun!
This one was inspired, quite obviously, by unrequited puppy love (*sniff*):
It is quite obvious that I took after Emily Dickinson when I did not know what to title a poem, using instead the first line of the poem, like with this one:
And, finally, this one somehow got into our high school's annual poetry anthology book, Whispering Leaves, voted in by my peers (poems were submitted anonymously).
- How has poetry affected your life or your reading?
- Who were the first poets you remember enjoying?
- What has given you much-needed sparks of creativity in the past?
- Are you reading any poetry for National Poetry Month? What are you reading?