“A poem is an echo,
asking a shadow to dance.”
A lovely way to define poetry, but what does it mean? Pretty words undefined by our experiences are just pretty words.
For a long time I did not appreciate poetry—possibly due to a Canadian literature course I took at university that seemed to hone in on Canadian poetry that defined our great nation as a cold, forbidding, and sterile place—which was the exact opposite of my experience. Mind you, I live in an area (southwestern Ontario) where we brag about being the “southernmost” part of Canada, so we possibly experience much more moderate weather conditions than many of our northerly brothers and sisters.
I have found that there is certain poetry that “speaks” to me, and it is generally poetry that talks of everyday things in a way that makes me look differently at the world. Each of us sees the world with a unique vision, and these visions can expand our experience.
I now collect poetry, but the poetry I collect speaks of everyday things. It is not dark and dank and angst ridden. There is a poetry contest in Canada that asks us to write poems and enter them to win a good amount of money and publication. I have read some of the poetry that has won this contest in past years and it is generally not “happy” poetry about daffodils, or hanging out the wash, or planting tomatoes. It generally has a depth I cannot plumb. I guess I like poetry that is expressed simply with beautiful language.
In an attempt to write something I think would be considered for the contest—I went to my dark place and came up with the following:
The shadows are cast
Shutters open to reveal a life broken
Just outside the door a welcome mat beckons
But it lies
No one is welcome here
Pain, hurt, and agony
Make their home here.
A red couch long abandoned
Its pillows ripped and frayed and soiled
Pillows strewn on the floor
Pretty fringed cast offs
Carpet muddied and matted……………..
Then I stopped writing the poem. It is not me. As angst ridden as the next person, I could not sustain this attitude long enough to write 500 – 600 words. I kind of depressed myself. It is apparent to me that my dark side is not dark enough, or sustainable.
Granted, I may live in a world of denial at times, but I like pretty words and pretty worlds, and what I so painfully came up with in my lame attempt to be considered for a prize is not authentically me. So I will write about trees with lacy limbs, snowflakes melting on tongues, and baby chuckles—and leave the dark side to those who can do it justice.
If as Sandburg says: “A poem is an echo, asking a shadow to dance” then mine is a dance of hope whose shadows are shallow.
Bliss is realizing what is authentic, and what is not. What do you think?