The Alchemy of Poetry

The next few months look like they will hot up in the writing life stakes. I have joined a local writing group where the majority of members seem to be poets, and I am attending a local (different) group where, at the January meeting, I am due to read my own work to the unsuspecting public (which is really other, very sympathetic, poets!) I have also signed up for a four-month course to learn the craft of poetry creation more formally, and I am looking forward to this very much indeed.  It has a well-known poet as the tutor and only a small group of students so I should get some good feedback and learn lots.

This exposition takes care of what is happening out in the external world to feed the soul with new inputs and to create threads to hold me to the work that I need to do, but that is only half the story. Recently I have been thinking about the alchemy of poetry and the connection it has to my heart and soul. The ability for what look like ordinary words on the page to take on this magical property when in the right order and turn into an exquisite masterpiece of language and meaning – to make something opaque appear transparent, (or even something always thought of as clear look opaque!)

Through the work of David Whyte and Oriah MD, plus many other more, I have seen poetry work on a soulful level. The books by Roger Housden  in the series “Ten poems  to…”,  particularly the first one “Ten Poems to Change Your Life” are full of such work, and essays about how they have done just that. These writers make for inspirational reading. Sometimes though it is hard to see what it is that is being said – there is a certain way to look at poetry, a bit of an art to reading and absorbing a poem (like the art needed when looking at Magic Eye 3D pictures from my younger days!).

Kim Rosen says the following in her book “Saved by a Poem: The transformative power of words”:

In order to enter poetry’s language, your grip on habitual, left-brained ways of processing information needs to soften. Somehow we know how to do this with music and art. You probably wouldn’t try to figure out the exact meaning of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing. Nor are you likely to do a pragmatic analysis of an abstract painting by Georgia O’Keeffe or Jackson Pollock. You feel these art forms. You allow associations to play through your awareness. You let your linear mind relax and go for the ride.

As you read poems, listen to them, and speak them aloud, try meeting them as you would a piece of music. Allow your rational, linear brain to relax. Dare to not understand, to lose your grip on making sense of the words. Let the images, like musical notes, pour over you. The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard writes that poetry “comes before thought . . . [R]ather than being a phenomenology of the mind, [poetry] is a phenomenology of the soul.”

This is beginning to make sense to me; the alchemy of turning words into poetry and the language of the soul. I hope to be doing more of this in my own work and finding the soul food in others’ poetry as I really start to understand and appreciate the magic in making of verse.

 

Word workings

I really enjoy finding information, and particularly good graphics, that help make my writing tighter and more impactful. Here’s a great reminder I found today:

5 Weak Words to Avoid & What to Use Instead (Infographic)