Oddly, as someone who writes poetry, it has taken me a long time to actually learn to enjoy reading it. Appreciation and enjoyment are two entirely different things for me, in case that were unclear. There are a lot of things that I can appreciate for what it’s worth, that I don’t also enjoy…metal music for example.
Creative writing class after creative writing class forced me to read poetry during my undergrad years. There were poets I’d never heard of, local poets, poets I hated and ones that I only liked for certain subtleties in their writing, and eventually it ended up fostering a desire to be exposed to as much many poets/writers as possible. And I would still consider myself a far more avid reader of fiction than of poetry—baby steps.
All writers, of any genre, has persistently heard that good writers are also good readers—meaning, the more we read the better writer we’re likely to become. And the one fiction writing class I took in college, always advocated fiction writers reading poetry to learn how to pay attention to detail, make a moment feel how it would really feel, and that wordiness isn’t always the best method of explanation. I believe that those lessons are true. But as a poetry writer, I’ve learned quite a bit from my hoards of fiction…what exactly I’m not sure.
I do know that it is far easier for me to tell a story in a matter of lines than it ever used to be. Word choice isn’t as big of a chore. And sometimes the simplest of things strike me as amazing or beautiful and I have the capacity to write something about.
Office of Letters and Light pointed out some ways in which reading poetry might help in prose writing. My favorite being “exploration” because of how he imagines poets to create. I never thought of it before, but outlines aren’t something of a poets world. The closest I’ve ever come to an ‘outline’ is an idea of what I want to portray via poem, or an image/phrase/line that just sticks with me and I know that I just HAVE to use it. For example: while in Tucson at the beginning of the year, driving back from the mountains with one of my friends, all the saguaros of varying sizes with their arms reaching toward the sun, thirsty for it’s warmth, just really made an impact with me…and I conjured up this line—“as the saguaros reach their many arms to the sky, calling to gods.”
It took awhile to make that one line into a poem, or figure out how to incorporate it, and by awhile I mean about a week. For me, that’s a long time to write a poem when normally I just sit down, mash something out and then let it sit before revising a couple times. My writing is very much like what that OLL blog thinks of when thinking of poetry writing. It’s something that just kind of happens, with a little effort mostly in making the time to actually write. And making time is often the harder part—and definitely something I need to make more of an effort at.
OLL also led me to Dean Young’s “Elegy on a Toy Piano” which I thoroughly enjoyed and it made me feel compelled to start writing more often, again.