I have a lot of issues with writing poetry.
A lot of issues.
I really want to emphasize that.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’m working on a poem inspired in its meter and overall feel by one of my favorite songs. The song is sung much differently than it reads, but that’s sort of the band’s trademark. It sounds one way as a song, and another as a poem.
I always try to look for inspiration for poems, especially very long ones like the one I posted here previously. My problem is that when my pacing makes my poem’s length too ambitious I tend to just drop it and move on to something else.
I think the best example of this is when I was particularly inspired by Tolkien’s poem, “Luthien Tinuviel” (separate from his epic poem “The Lay of Luthien” he also wrote. I want to make a piece like that one day, but it’ll take a while).
In my defense: I also was trying to do this during finals week a while back.
But, nonetheless, I eventually abandoned the project about twelve stanzas in because it felt like it wanted to finish very soon, but the pacing required another dozen or so stanzas if I wanted to finish my little poetic story. Unfortunately, in order to change the feel of the middle of the poem I had to massacre the rhymes and connections I already had. Essentially, I took a twelve stanza, half-finished poem and chopped it down to the first four stanzas with a much faster pacing.
The problem, I think, stemmed from that I was using Tolkien’s rhyme scheme, which is very unforgiving to change once a stanza is finished and set in stone. It’s either going to work, or you need to come up with an entirely new stanza.
In the end, I think I gave up around the seventeenth stanza. The lack of sleep from finals, coupled with my hefty collegiate writing workload sort of set me up for failure from the start. I want to revisit the poem at some point and see if I can salvage it and improve on what I already have, but we’ll see where that goes.
I also have enormous confidence problems with poetry.
My creative prose I’m perfectly comfortable with it. I’ve taken a number of courses on it, I know my grammar like the back of my hand, and I research so much that my stuff basically writes itself. I’ve gotten opinions back from real published writers saying that they think my prose is effective and polished, so I’m only marginally concerned when doing heavy prose editing.
Unfortunately, when it comes to poetry really my only feedback has been from friends and equally unqualified peers on poetry forums I used to dump stuff on in high school. The issue I have with poetry is that a poem can be widely appealing and easy to appreciate, but still tremendously ineffective as a poem.
My poetry also seriously craves structure. If I don’t at least have a rhyme scheme I get tremendously bored. I’ve written a few free-verse, rhyme-less poems, but they’re few and far between. This makes my writing process for poems tremendously long. Like, far longer than it should for how short many of them end up being.
I think part of the issue also lies with that I have a bad habit of comparing my work to the work of poets I really enjoy. Anything I write seems bad compared to something like William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming”, so you can probably see why this is a problem.
I also like to throw in a LOT of references to mythology and history. This makes a lot of my poetry come off to those who read it as “highbrow” and “pretentious”, so this also becomes an issue. I’m frequently told I basically need to dumb-down my poems, especially with the words I sometimes use and the names I often drop.
Yeah, not going to happen.
I’m getting better with the confidence issues with poetry, though. This comes from my current mindset of “fuck it all” with whether or not people like or understand my poetry. If they need to use Google more than twice a poem, good. They’re learning something!
In the end, though, I’m not very ambitious with my poetry for the future. I enjoy doing it, but I have no illusions about becoming a published poet. I don’t think I’m nearly good enough. That’s not self-depreciation either. A lot of published poets, especially younger ones, are pretty terrible anyways. Its not that I don’t think I could get published as a poet. I definitely could seeing some of the terrifically bad poetry I’ve dredged through. I just don’t think I’m good enough to be a respected poet. That matters, I think, a lot more today and being published. It used to be a lot harder to be published than it is now. Our standards are much lower than they used to be.
I’ll continue writing poetry and such because I usual enjoy doing so. I’m not looking to become the next Keats or Kipling, so it’ll continue to be a casual, almost time-killing activity. I still take it very seriously, because I’m not going to put out anything on the internet that I think is truly bad or lacking in quality. I’ll keep writing poetry because it’s a good creative and emotional exercise. Who knows, maybe I’ll do more with it than I’m thinking I will right now.
We’ll see how this goes.