Tunnel vision is what you get when you are passionate about something. I am passionate about words. The sound of them; their meaning and their connotation. They way they feel in your mouth and on your tongue when you say them, spit them; howl them; whisper them.
Poetry is about music and words and imagery; simile and metaphor. Using words to create an extraordinary image of often ordinary things. Words are pliable and multi-use, in meaning and form. Combine them in different ways and their meanings change. Words can be twisted and tweaked, pulled apart and put back together in new and different ways to create new meanings and new ways of describing and explaining experience
Poetry is the most pure use of words. Some poems were written to convey sound only; the words meaningless in themselves. Some poems were written to be seen rather than read because the form and structure of the words and letters on the page was the whole intent of the writer.
Poetry preceded prose for the simple fact that poetry has meter, a “beat” if you will, making it easy to remember and the ancients told their histories in poetry, so it would be remembered and repeated. Before there was the written word, there was poetry.
Shakespeare wrote his plays in iambic pentameter. He also wrote in the vernacular of his time and he was perhaps the greatest poet who ever set pen to paper and he wrote for the people in the stalls. One of my professors quoted someone who said “Poetry doesn’t have to be FOR everyone but it does have to be ABOUT everyone.” That always stuck with me and I used it to absolve myself from appreciating poetry that made not one iota of sense to me.
Yes, I am comfortable with the language of Shakespeare and Donne because I have been reading it since childhood. I can’t say, as a child, I understood it all…but ah, the sounds of the words, the glorious words; the music of the words.
I could read and write by the age of 4, not because I was so smart but because I come from a family of readers and my father also had a love of words, and he insisted that we use the language properly. I think I was 5 or 6 when I started writing poems and 8 when I tried my hand at stories. It wasn’t till I was 10 or so that I became SERIOUS about writing. When I told people I was going to be a writer when I grew up no one doubted it in the least, and yet, it has been years since I have written anything worth the time and ink. Somewhere in my 30’s, the need to write dissipated. And it’s the NEED to write that makes a writer. I seem to have lost that need.
Ah but poetry, there is something in that form that feeds me, touches me, compels me. Because it is musical? Because it is concise, to the point, the essential only? Because a poet can convey in one line what a novelist takes pages to do?
Perhaps it was just hubris on my part that I ever thought I could be a poet.