This past weekend marked the first of my poetry readings for my latest collection, THE GUILT GENE. This is a collection which I really enjoyed putting together.
It has been said that poets should not give away their secrets because there are people seated on benches waiting to copy and emulate—but as an instructor of writing, it is just a part of what I do. The secret I want to share with you is that you do not have to be a poet to write poetry.
Really. You don’t and I will tell you why.
The first poem I wrote as an adult was about fifteen years ago. The poem, called Park Avenue, was inspired by being watched by a senior citizen sitting on a bench outside my favorite coffee shop. As a woman taught to park in New York, by her car-loving father, I knew that I was a darn good parallel-parker. The gentleman on the bench on Park Avenue insisted on staring at me and his glance aggravated me so much that I decided to write a poem about the experience.
I read the poem at my writer’s meeting that week and received accolades. As a nonfiction writer, I was proud of my work, and realized the importance of words stemming directly from emotion. In addition, there is this certain unexplainable magic that happens when a poem is born. The poet is filled with a sense of joy and fluttering which creeps along the skin. Just try it. Sit for a few moments and think about an emotion or image which has recently grabbed you and write a poem about it. Examine the details in your every day world; isolate one moment or image and dig deeper into it and you will surprise yourself.
My other secret is that most of my poems are inspired by a recent image or emotion. Below are two poem selections from THE GUILT GENE:
In the happy moments
a public library sits
nestled between a department store
and a post office,
the only place I could find peace
from the yelling and screaming
and the fallout shelters at school.
That little library card
bearing my name beneath
lamination could protect me
more than the words of my father
who would take me onto his lap,
swear to me that everything would be okay.
In the end books would save me.
Knowledge is the only thing
that cannot be stolen away.
On route to my favorite coffee shop
in the building beside your place,
my mind meanders toward
the neighboring mountains
where we trekked long ago
and yodeled to the world how we
wanted to be forever arm-in-arm
when all of a sudden
a glance into my rear view mirror
meets the flashing lights of the law
signaling for me to pull aside.
He asks about the stop sign I blew through.
Having a blank moment
I mutter something about being
new to the area
don’t mention that for the past few weeks
friends and family have been
teaching me the lovely local dance
they call the California Roll.
I don’t mention you either.
I just say I’m sorry.
It won’t happen again.