Circadian Poems

A place to celebrate poetry, poets, and the creative spirit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Why Write Poetry?

Why Write Poetry?
An Opinion by Brenda Braene

“Why write poetry?”

I am often asked the question. And then it continues:

“It’s not like you can make a living at it.”

“It’s not like you’ll ever be famous.”

But that’s not why I write poetry. I don’t want to be famous. The very thought of it makes me cringe. Maybe someday I will make a living at it. There are professional poets. Sharon Olds, Marge Piercy, May Sarton, Robert Louis Stevenson, Keats, Shelley, and Jane Augustine are the names that immediately come to mind. Shakespeare was a poet as well as a playwright, and his sonnets still inspire us hundreds of years later. I might never become proficient enough or prolific enough to make my living as a poet, but that’s okay.

I write poetry because it feeds my inner rhythms. I like to read novels. But I view the world in smaller pieces. Instead of looking at an entire forest, I’d rather truly study one particular tree – the scent of it, the sensation of the needles across my palm, the texture of the trunk against my back, the way it looks as it reaches up towards the sky. There are writers who could create an entire novel out of the experience. But I am not one of them. I like to celebrate the small details of daily life.

People have longed for poetry since ancient times. Think of the Celtic Bards. Think of the tales of The Odyssey and The Iliad. Those are long poems, telling heroic tales, and reflecting history. Perhaps not genuine archeology, but the personal history of the bard and his time. Poets used to be revered and feared. Perhaps because of that “society” -- that demon group who wants us all to be part of a faceless, nameless herd instead of celebrating our individuality – began turning them into a joke.

Far too often, the word “poet” brings to mind a pseudo-Beat, pseudo-literary, pretentious person who does not want to work for a living. Instead, he writes self-indulgent verse, drinks and smokes in cafes (even though it’s now often illegal to smoke indoors) and sleeps with the students from his continuing education class. Or she writes floating verses about smoke and fairies that are incomprehensible and waits for someone with money to rescue her.

I believe many writers and non-writers flirt with those stereotypes at some point in their lives. But true poets have an insatiable curiosity about the world. Instead of dealing in theory, they deal in detail. And they try to communicate that detail with a minimum of verbiage.

Four short lines which transport me into the poet’s heart, which let me see through the poet’s eyes, which let me hear what the poet hears affect me longer than the most powerful one thousand page (and pound) novel.

It is not because I cannot concentrate for long periods of time. It’s simply that a simple arrangement of beautiful words have more impact on me. A single rose in a lovely vase is more beautiful to me than three dozen roses crammed into a bucket. I can take my time and enjoy each petal of the rose, instead of feeling as though I’ll never give each petal of the bouquet significant attention.

There is so much discussion about living mindfully. Yet, with all the mobile phones and email and having television on non-stop from the moment one walks through the door, it is almost impossible to truly notice anything.

Unless one pauses and experiences it through a poem.

I want to participate in the world, not view it through a screen. I want to touch it and taste it. Words make the experience more immediate to me than any computer-generated image can.

That is why I read poetry and write poetry: To experience the world instead of merely inhabiting it as a voyeur.

Brenda Braene’s blog is Poet Meets Muse, and she shares a website, The Three Braenes, with Bridget and Beatrix Braene. The three share a love of Jane Austen’s life and works. Her poems “Harvest I in Two Voices”, “Harvest Moon”, and “Gran Fletcher’s Apple Pie” were published by Circadian Poems.


  • At 1:26 PM, Blogger MB said…

    This essay articulates much of what I feel as a poet. Thanks!


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