If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room, would you trust it?
I mean I write poems in these songs dedicated to you when
You’re in the mood for empathy, there’s blood in my pen
Better yet, where your friends and them?
– Kendrick Lamar, “Poetic Justice”
April is National Poetry Month! And, who doesn’t like poetry? I’m dedicating this week’s column to such celebrations because poets and their creative rhymes intrigue me. Whether it’s the rap lyrics of the Kendrick Lamar (A.K.A. Benz is to me just a car) or the lovelorn odist’s Shakespearean sonnet, poetry in all forms has a way of drawing in your attention.
The unrestricted creativity innate in poems gives much agency to anyone willing to give rhyme a shot. Poetry flows with a literary musicality and almost always centers on expressive imagery, making it figuratively (and oftentimes literally) aesthetic. In free-verse poetry especially, grammar and correct structure suddenly become arbitrary, and that freedom befits a meaningful resource for many a creative writer. Free and full expression through writing defines poetry.
However, not every writer flourishes under so much freedom. Personally, I tend to cling to my safety net of complete sentences and correct punctuation, as if I need the structure to support the thoughts I lay out on paper. Poetry encompasses a wide spectrum, and some types of poetry, like those with a metered or syllabic count, do rely on a set structure for a different means of expression. Sadly, I still don’t feel motivated to write it. I did write some poetry as a child though, and an unpretentious publishing agency called Pine Tree Poetry that seeks youthful poems like mine, even published one years ago. Now, after so many years, I laugh while reading its childish explanation of why “dancing rocks!” as its almost as embarrassing as that baby picture of me in a purple tutu. Unfortunately for you, the book is somewhere deep in the storage bins of my house back home, so I can’t reproduce it here.
But I no longer write poetry. I’d hate to think that it’s because I, like many, have lost much of that free creativity that comes so easily to children—but that’s a likely reason. Poets who can hone their art at a young age exude a special talent, and often have the ability to conjure powerful emotions. The young already express their raw emotions mostly free of societal pressure to be contained, so they have a natural advantage compared to those of us who’ve grown into a culture that tends to suppress emotion, structure creativity. Many passionate poets became so admirably prolific because they were able to nurture their skill from a very young age. The revered 19th Century poet Salomé Ureña, at the ripe age of 17, inspired the entirety of the Dominican Republic to seek greener pastures absent of colonialists by anonymously publishing her politically activist poems. She, with the support of her father, nurtured her talent from childhood.
Poetry ranges so widely that it characteristically can be written by anyone, young or old. For many, it also provides the perfect outlet for expression. And that expressive exhibition of a writer’s thoughts transmits so well to the reader because of poetry’s naturally aesthetic rawness. You easily digest a carrot, but it’s horrible to digest a Big Mac. Although I’m no poet, I love to appreciate good poetry, and this month is perfect for finding poets that speak to who you are. I’ve listed excerpts from some of my recent favorites below, but I encourage you to explore.
“Ode To My Right Knee” By Rita Dove
Oh, obstreperous one, ornery outside of ordinary
protocols; paramilitary probie par
excellence: Every evidence
you yield yells.
too tough to tackle, tears
springing such sudden salt
when walking wrenches:
“Fresh” By Kima Jones
because the blood resumes
flowers i sucked from
nectar lived there
we tested our faith
in stories of birds
the blood resumes
Photo: Jorge Royan via Wikipedia