It has been a very emotional week on my end, and with that I managed to seek out some very touching writing and techniques that I wanted to share in a short thought today. One, so that you know what to look for when you want to feel that rush that comes from inspired understanding, and two so you can better write it should you feel the need to. There is something about good poetry that allows us to reach in and grab exactly what the author was feeling upon writing. That could be mourning, excitement, or the pure joy of creation. Your poetry doesn’t have to connect with everyone (it’s allowed to be just for you), but it’s really, really nice to find something that does genuinely connect with us.
Maria Popova recently released an animated short of Marie Howe’s Singularity. You don’t have to believe in the Big Bang to find this poem absolutely moving. It explores the want to be free of the burden that all life carries with it, and think about “living” (if you can call a single mass of all atoms hyperfused and floating in a vacuum living) in a time when all matter was one in unison with no individual thoughts or feelings. A type of simplicity that many crave. *On the bottom of that same page, please find "Lake-Loop" by Natalie Diaz and "The Mushroom Hunters" by Neil Gaiman.*
There is something about fitting this big idea into such a small and solemn and easy-to-process thought that makes you go “I understand this. I want this. I feel this.” Imagery is absolutely the largest part of this - being able to use a visual stimulus to project exactly the feeling you want others to understand. Howe takes something that most people are generally already familiar with, and makes a somewhat surprising little twist out of it - she asks “what if we could be that thing?” and talks about the implications.
Sam Pierstorff has a great video over this concept where he takes two different poems, side-by-side, and explains the difference between what makes a good poem and a bad poem. Some of this includes using the language that you regularly speak in. If you want people to connect to you, you have to speak to them on their level. You can’t speak to them on a 16th century level, we’re not in the 16th century. Use specific language instead of generalized “I feel like crying.” Explain why you feel that way, how bad it actually feels, what kind of crying is happening - are we talking a little whimper or big dog tears? Something that someone can look at and say “I’ve done exactly that before.” Use metaphors that are a little more specific to the mood and even surprising to use. Maybe don’t compare tears to a river - maybe compare them to the squeezing of a lemon (idk, first thing I thought of). Rivers are overused and no one really knows what that means at this point except that there are a lot of tears happening.
I don’t enjoy writing poetry like this, mostly because I am absolutely writing silly weirdo things to get away from the intensity, but it is nice to have it exist for those moments when it feels appropriate - so I thought I’d write this out and provide those thoughts for you. Maybe you can write some for me. If you do write some absolutely charging poetry, I’d love to see it btw.
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Liberty Jensen • Writer
Liberty is a donations manager, finance student, and full-time drinker of coffee. She enjoys poetry, her cats, and spending time with her husband.