January 21, 2020

Why I Write

Ok.  I'm not sure what just happened.  Today is January 21, and I SWEAR I just posted my earlier blog only last week.  But, suddenly, it's 19 days later!  What HAPPENED???  Think I've been caught in a time warp . . . where is Spock when I need him?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, or in this case, the apartment, I've been busy.  We've had unseasonable warm weather, followed abruptly by unseasonable cold.  I'm discovering cold drafts I didn't know existed, but I am watching the setting sun move farther and farther north on the horizon.  The massive exterior repairs on my apartment building, started before Thanksgiving, ended last week (to my great relief), and the new year is definitely upon us.

I've been thinking a lot lately about poetry, how it's written, why it's written.  A friend at my writers' group asked me why I write the poems I've been sharing.  I could only explain, that the greatest impact on how I write has come from the oldest poets, not their personal ages, but the ages in which they wrote.  I love the Icelandic sagas; anonymous Irish poetry and ballads, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and especially, Beowulf.  My favorite translations are the older ones; their rhythm, language, internal rhyme schemes and alliteration.  I was introduced to Beowulf in high school, senior English.  A classmate had memorized several lines of Beowulf and would recite it before class as we were settling for roll-call.  The line that stuck with me for the last 55 years has been "when twilight deepens to dark in the sky."  (This is the J Duncan Spaeth translation, by the way.)  Poetry is aural -- to be fully appreciated, it must be HEARD; to be read with the ears as much as with the eyes.  Withing the somber setting of Beowulf introducing himself to the king, Hgrothgar, this line is inserted.  I have the instant image of this dusk in my mind, thanks to the original writers and to Dr Spaeth, and hearing it recited brings me inner joy.

That's key for me -- image.  A poet must be concise in language, for the reader can tire and move on. I write fairly short poems, usually around 20-24 lines, so I have to get the images across quickly and succinctly.  And, more than anything, I want the reader to think, "oh, I hadn't thought of it that way!"
Our instant connections through internet means we are bombarded with information, news, views, cute puppies, and much, much to ponder.  There comes a time in my day when I simply want to relax, to let images was over me, and ponder, and mull.  Poets, more than any other writing genre, observe.  They observe people, they observe things, they observe their world.  And they share their observations quickly, with force and conviction, rhythm and rhyme, feeling and nuance.  Many of us had to memorize poetry in school.  And whether poetry, or song lyrics, there are memories conveyed within the lines as we remember and recite.

A good line or phrase, whether in poetry or prose, stays with us; and those words evoke other times and places and people.  It is the observation that sticks, whether it's crowds of daffodils, the great silkie, twilight, or a wine-dark sea, we just say "wow."

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