poetry heart

by Kirby Congdon…….

The term, “poem,” resonates. Robert Frost said, appropriately enough, that “poet” is also a praise word. It’s presumptuous to assign it to oneself. In the world of literature the term “verse” also has baggage with it that suggests another kind of self-congratulation. One gets a lot of verse and rhymes in the poetry groups who feel that their hobby will somehow work out as a poem. It never does. In their haste to produce work for the next get-together no time is allowed for any rewriting, or for exploring one’s vocabulary or for proof-reading either the text or the ideas.

Oftentimes the reliance on rhyme inhibits an objective look. It is not that rhymes are naughty. A rhyme may provoke another idea one would have missed otherwise. It is part of the thinking process to have associations that you are still free to reject or hold aside. We all have boxes of “Poems in Progress” stuffed full of our failures. It is our nation’s attraction to writing anything that helps distinguish it, whether it is letters, headlines, children’s books, novels or that first published poem. “Success” does have a gaudy flag flying for it but it is the process itself that lets us grow intellectually as well as emotionally. Trying too hard reminds me of a famous poet who assigned his poetry class to write on a subject he designated. That dictum denies any invention, originality or sincerity because the inspiration is just something tacked on. A poem is not an assignment or a hobby. It must have a life of its own.

One learns by doing, not by following directions. A writer needs to find out by trial and error what he is capable of. His work comes out of his own identity. Exploring what provokes his own interests establishes the direction he is going in. That may take a lifetime and even then to produce a poem may be a rare event because a poem comes voluntarily under its own power. One simply can not dictate that this weekend one is going to bring a poem into the public eye for approval and relish the rewards of being clever. The real critic is the one who finds out what he himself is doing and makes the final judgment of its worth. He grows and matures through his experiences of finding out not only what a poem is but what his own contribution and his own identity may be.

A man may be clever enough to predict a lot of things, like the weather, but, even so, the world is too complex to be preordained just to suit a personal convenience. The creative act somehow does not take orders. In effect, it has a mind of its own and except for the heart’s own beat it does not like to be told what to do until that heart, within its own language, speaks.

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