Monday, August 22, 2016

Singing the Literary Songs

A week ago, I completed a poetry half-marathon. A full marathon asked poor, abused poets to pen a poem an hour for twenty-four hours. Wimps like me who appreciate a comfy night’s sleep could opt for a half-marathon, which demanded one poem an hour for only twelve hours. So, by the end of my stint, I became the proud mama of twelve poem babies.

Since then, I have become a poetry fiend. I pen quick limericks in elevators, wax poetic in blog posts, jot down freestyle verse during lunch. Heck, during a series of endless meetings last week, I wrote pages of poetry bemoaning the uncomfortable, molded-plastic, stadium seating into which the administrators had shoved us poor instructors.

Here’s a haiku I wrote while shifting every five minutes in order to restore circulation to my legs.

Metal-toothed plastic 
Bites my ample derriere.
Classroom seating sucks.

In addition to actually writing more lately, I’ve also found myself pondering the musicality of poetry and, by extension, prose. How do I know when a line or sentence should end? What blend of long and short sounds feels best? How can words, lines, paragraphs and stanzas shape the structure, use, and rhythm of the message?

I’m sure technical words exist to explain the flow, beat, and meter of poetry and prose. I don’t have a lot of formal training in writing and lack access to that vocabulary. All I can say is that poems and scenes in novels have a tempo to them, and words are the written notes that beat it out. I feel the music of the piece, the longs and the shorts, the tense staccato or the flowing legato. In this way, poems are songs and novels symphonies.

Writing appeals to me because it so deftly straddles lines between structure and rules and sheer, off-the-cuff inspiration and artistry. Many rules exist about, for example, punctuation, capitalization, and object/subject use, but much of the beauty of writing lies in the spaces in between the rules where creativity, rhythm, tactility, and improvisation live.

Many of us who write, I’m sure, also draw, paint, bake, sing, craft, or play a musical instrument. As writers, we are technical geniuses (claim it, baby!), wielding our vocabularies, knowledge of sentence structure, and punctuation savvy. As a mere twelve hours of coffee-slurping and keyboard pounding reminded me, however, we are also magnificent artists that spin, paint, sing, and dance the music and imagery to life within those technical boundaries. 

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