Poetry has been a love of mine all of my life, not just writing it, but reading it, listening to it, experiencing it. As a young girl in Portugal I had memorized my favorite poem “Balada da Neve” by Augusto Gil. Translating it wouldn’t do it justice, as is wont to happen with any work of art, but it is a beautifully sad poem about the snow, and the suffering of the human race. Of course, I knew none of that as a child, I just knew it sounded beautiful, such amazing words, joined together to create this illusion of snow (something I had never experienced first hand before I left Portugal).
Moving countries, and learning a new language, fortunately, did not affect my love of prose. I only found new poets, new writers, to fall in love with. Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, E.E. Cummings. They all could say so much, with so little effort. Cummings was a favorite for a long time. He had a method unlike any other, and I was fascinated by what he could do by breaking all the rules. Take this, one of my favorites by him:
It appears to be nothing more than a jumble of letters, but…look closer. Outside the parenthesis “Loneliness”, inside “A Leaf Falls”…Thus: A leaf falls – Loneliness. FOUR WORDS…and yet, what powerful emotion it carries. This is what I have always loved about poetry. So little written, can mean so much interpreted.
Through the years I’ve enjoyed poetry in its many forms, not just from the “greats”, but from other, lesser known authors, songwriters (because the lyrics to a song are poetry, only the music make them a song), certain rappers (not the cars, money and hos ones), but there have been a few rappers in our time that truly have a magical way with words. My newest pleasure in the love of poetry is in watching live poetry performed, poetry slams, and even the Def Poetry Jams that I find myself watching late at night on HBO. How wonderful that a whole new generation of writers gets to express themselves through the medium of television.
My own prose, while it has slowed close to a halt in latter years, is still something I’m highly in love with. I can pick up certain pieces I wrote as far back as high school, and be fascinated by the way I wove words together to express feelings I didn’t even fully comprehend. And even now, when I manage to eke out a poem here and there, feeling as if I just don’t have the gift anymore, I reread it and am constantly surprised at the power of my words.
But trying to explain poetry, trying to describe the effect it has had on my life, or my need to write, is like trying to explain the color red to someone who has never seen it. It can’t be explained, it must be experienced.
I’ll leave you with quotes by two of my favorite poets:
“Poetry is a way of taking life by the throat”. – Robert Frost
“Poetry is life distilled”. – Gwendolyn Brooks