Why read poetry?
By Laurel Garver, author of Muddy-Fingered Midnights
(Yes it does!)
Like fiction, poetry also has sub-genres: lyric (descriptive), narrative (story), formal (following rhythm and rhyme patterns), concrete (artistically shaped lines), found (“stolen” words and lines combined artistically), spoken word, Flarf (avant garde combos of pop culture), and many more. There’s a little something in verse for everyone—even fans of “pulp fiction,” romance, SciFi or horror. (For an extensive list of magazines with poetry, see Poets & Writers database here
I fell hard for poetry while taking a contemporary poetry course as an undergrad. The prof began the class by lining us around the perimeter of the room and having us shout random portions of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” at one another. This was a universe away from the precious ponderings of Wordsworth and a game changer for me creatively. Many scenarios I would’ve previously thought unpoetical became grist for the mill--my janitorial work-study job, memories of Dad slaughtering chickens, a weedy patch in a slum--because truth is beautiful, no matter where you find it. That, in turn, helped me think more broadly about what warrants description in fiction, and what evokes our deepest feelings.
(I love Laurel's thought that "truth is beautiful, no matter where you find it.")
Taking courses in poetry also pushed me hard to develop my vocabulary, to delve deep into the world of words. A poet must look not only at a word’s definition, but also its connotations and connections. A poet must hear the tones and feel the textures of words. Studying poetry has made me especially aware of the power of sound devices: alliteration (repeated initial sounds), assonance (repeated vowel sounds within a word), and consonance (repeated consonant sounds with a word).
I believe these devices can make anyone’s writing more musical. The thinking behind sound devices is often onomatopoetic; the sound and meaning are linked. If you want to convey a sense of something sliding, for example, you’d choose hissing, sibilant words containing “s”, “sh” and “sw.” For example, “In her rush, she slipped sidelong, smearing grease along one sleeve.”
National Poetry Month may have come and gone, but for writers building their skills, every day should have a little poetry in it.
(I completely agree, Laurel!)
Laurel Garver is a magazine editor, poet, and writer of faith-based fiction. She enjoys quirky independent films, British TV, and geeking out about Harry Potter and Dr. Who. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter.
About Muddy-Fingered Midnights
This thirty-poem collection is an eclectic mix of light and dark, playful and spiritual, lyric and narrative free verse. In an intricate dance of sound play, it explores how our perceptions shape our interactions with the world. Here child heroes emerge on playgrounds and in chicken coops, teens grapple with grief and taste first love, adults waver between isolation and engaged connection. It is a book about creative life, our capacity to wound and heal, and the unlikely places we find love, beauty, and grace.
Thank you for bringing some poetry to my day, Laurel!
1. I climbed the hill (see Wednesday).
2. The National Day of Prayer.
3. The Premier showing of my daughters' performing arts class film, "The Lady of the Earrings." - We had a red carpet evening!
4. Laurel's Guest Post today! Thank you Laurel!
5. Time for writing.
6. An awesome critique partner.
7. Ironing . . . this would take an entire post to explain all of why I'm thankful for this, but in short, I get some imagination time in while ironing.
Thank you VikLit for this time to celebrate and give thanks for the small things.
The scripture verse that I'm praying over today is: 1 Thessalonians 15: "Rejoice always" - two words, big meaning.