My Strange Love Affair with Poetry
My Strange Love Affair with Poetry (or why experimenting with different forms is good for you)
It’s been said that to learn your craft as a novelist, you should start with short fiction. And while it’s true that many an author has found their way into novel writing success via a few short fiction sales, I can’t say it’s ever worked for me. Every so often I will dabble in short stories, but my ideas generally come on a much larger scale.
Recently, though, I’ve been starting to write a bit of poetry.
People who know me well will likely find this odd. I hate poetry. With a passion. I hate the ambiguity, I hate the shortness of it and I hate how so often after reading it, I’m not left with a sense of awe and wonder, but rather an overwhelming feeling of: What the hell did I just read?
It came about because I discovered performance poetry. One day while perusing Upworthy, I came across this gem and was hooked. This was poetry I could relate to. Poetry from the heart without pretension.
I subscribed to Button Poetry on YouTube and continued to absorb. I met Brenda Read-Brown, a local poet who performed with wonderful honesty about love and sex and other down to earth, usually naughty topics.
I started seeing poetry in a new light. I started wanting to write it.
I won’t claim that I’m any good at it, but writing poetry has taught me a thing of two that I can apply to my writing: conveying emotions in new and interesting ways, effective economy with words. I’ve grown as a writer without having to write 60,000+ words.
And this is why it’s important to experiment with different forms. It forces you out of a comfort zone that’s usually a comfort zone for a reason – it’s padded with things we’re good at. Struggle with your dialogue? Write a screenplay. It doesn’t even have to be good, but the very act of doing it will make you pay so much attention to conveying information with dialogue that’s both useful to the narrative, but also totally natural for the character.
Even within your form it’s good to experiment – write from a different perspective or in a different tense. Even if all it teaches you is that you’re really bad at writing within whatever constraints you’ve chosen, you’ve still learned something.
And it might just teach you something that takes your writing to the next level.