December 11th, 2014

Lilies - fireflys_locket

Understanding Poetry

I was talking about poetry on Twitter today. I thought I'd copy these thoughts over here since they started to reach blog-length.

Trying to understand poetry often leads me to frustration. I feel like my brain just can't comprehend it properly, like it's in another language. It makes me feel stupid, like... "I'm a writer, so I should get this!" I want to get this. But I don't. Still, occasionally, I try again. And while it loses me often, sometimes a certain line stands out with a reverberating truth.

I found a line like that today, that feels like it belongs at the beginning of the last book of Magic Inc. But then, I worry. Am I putting on too much by that if I rarely understand poetry, even the full piece the line is from? Is it too pretentious to use a line by a great poet to describe the end of a YA series that is created with love but probably deeply flawed?

Lots of writers do stuff like this. And I'll admit, at times, I've rolled my eyes at it. Mostly because they use lines that I can't understand, and I feel like they are bragging to their audience. A well placed quote can be a beautiful addition to a story. But I worry about being called a fraud. Especially because I can't defend myself. I don't understand poetry. But does that mean I shouldn't share a line of poetry that struck a chord in me?

I don't know.

I even used to write poetry when I was young, but I left it behind for several reasons. Basically, I was tired of people expecting it from me. Like, I should be able to do it on cue. I created work that held no meaning for me, because it made people notice me. For something good. And that was so, so rare in my childhood. My Lilies poem always makes me feel strange. It was published, and I didn't understand why. What made people think it was so special? It wasn't entirely created out of a need to be noticed. There was something there. But it was like I had somehow tapped into a way to make poetry that impressed people, even if I didn't like it. And that was the result.

What I liked writing were lyrics. I was making up songs and singing them into a tape recorder back as far as I can remember. They often weren't very good, but hey, I was young. And I loved it. The reason why I write about singers so much is that I wanted to be one. Before I stared writing (fan)fiction, I wanted to be a singer. But I had no talent in singing, just as I had no talent for ballet or figure skating (my other two vocational interests as a child). So, I was left just imagining it in the stories I told myself. The stories that keep me alive through bullying and self-hatred. The stories that became Magic Inc.

And it all comes back to that.

The funny thing about writing is that you can be anything. You can write your wildest dreams and make them feel real. I get the chance to be everything I wanted to be. Though when it comes to writing myself, I've chosen to write reality, too. Jane is too scared to sing, even though she loves it. Does she conquer that fear? Sort of. It depends on how you look at it. You'll have to read to find out. She certainly never steps out boldly, the way I'd wished I could. The way Sarah Sparks, or even Jenny, does. But through them, I can live dreams, too.

But back to poetry. I guess I've resented it for so long because I was able to create it and still not able to understand it. I confused myself with my own words. So poetry felt put on and fake. Like everyone only pretended to get it, not just me. And when I read it, whether as it is or used as a quote, I remember that feeling. The memories of that is what echoes in me. It reminds me of a time when I faked who I was. Something I stay far away from now.

When a poem manages to feel real and clear to me, I feel almost awed. And I want to share that. But then, I remember that I don't really understand poetry. And I don't want to be fake. So, I move away from it. But if I pretend this line doesn't mean something to me, that's fake, too. Isn't it? So, I typed the line into my notes. Maybe by the time I reach the end of Magic Inc. I'll feel brave enough to use it.