Freeform Friday: Birth of a Poet

I had to admit that “Funny Friday” wasn’t going as smoothly as I wanted it to. I’m better at humor in the moment than I am planning it out. I’m worse at sharing humor from the web when I know a million people already saw it. I don’t even share funny things to my friends all that often.

Instead of humor as a theme, I’m leaving the door open for humor, and making the day open for “freeform” posts. I might have guest posts, share a video, drop a playlist, or ramble about daily life. We’ll never know until it’s time to post!

For today, I’m going to ramble about poetry. When I was a child, I lived in the middle of nowhere. The town had a name, and a population of less than 100. We were surrounded by miles and miles of farms. It was the definition of country.

Northwestern Missouri is prone to some hefty winter storms. I’m not sure how they are now, but they were a regular occurrence when I was growing up in the 70’s. I can recall snowstorms that lasted for days, snow reaching windows and a couple of times even rising to block doors. Sometimes the weather would take out the power for a night.

It was most common to see the power go out during the ice storms that swept the region at the end of winter. On these nights, something magical happened.

My mom would bring out the oil lamps before she and my older siblings hung blankets over doorways to keep the heat in one room. We had a gas heater, so even without power, we stayed warm this way. Sometimes there was a special snack or popcorn made on the stove.

Then she pulled out books of poetry and read to us.

The first poem to capture my heart was The Highwayman by Lord Alfred Noyes. Imagine my complete delight when I found the song by Loreena McKennitt! (And then the corresponding sadness when I learned I was a purist and hated the lines she shifted away from the original despite loving the song otherwise!)

The other two that stuck in my memory were Little Orphant Annie and Nine Little Globlins, both by James Whitcomb Riley.

The storms raged outside and we listened to stories of ghosts, goblins, and strange monsters that snatched bad children away, all in rhythmic, sing-song voice.

As I grew, the poetry of Khalil Gibran captured my heart. Among all works, The Prophet is my favorite, and has always held a powerful sway over my beliefs and views. As a pre-teen, I fell prey to the world of Shakespeare in ways that baffled my friends, but I understood the humor and oracular wit hidden in Old English. Reading those pieces with understanding made me a great fan of his works, and often I’d snicker and giggle as I read them.

I’ve never stopped reading poetry, and truly, the only genre I never fell in love with is beatnik. I also don’t care for poetry laden with cursing, or verses that paint any group as a whole in a bad light. (The amount of poetry about hating men or women is just astounding, and to me, pointless. I hope the authors gained relief and healing from whatever pushed them to write such things, but I have no desire to read it.)

I recently dug through old files and found a stack of poetry I wrote and never transcribed to digital format. When I look back at those early influences, I can’t pretend surprise at how much of my poetry is written in quatrains of iambic pentameter, complete with ab, ab rhyme schemes. I’ve noticed a switch in recent years though. I’ve begun to find my way to poetry that doesn’t require such strict structure. It’s interesting to see the journey and the development of a new voice. I still use my old style, probably out of comfort as much as anything, but I have come to enjoy writing with such freedom.

One of these days, maybe I’ll finally get talked into releasing a book of poetry. Until then, here are a couple of my more recent verses, not related, and unnamed.

Inspiration for a future story, following my original patterns:

Beneath the hands of the gods
Lie shadows cast be their light
And all that passes in that darkness
Is hidden from their sight.

And from a different piece:

I turn to home
Under heavy skies
The day so long, stealing my strength away.
Every step
Seems one too far
My head so low, I don’t feel the rain falling.

(Don’t worry, it’s not a sad poem!)

It’s not that I believe all my poetry to be flawless or even good to read, but it’s so interesting to see a shift occur. I wish I could say what brought it on. I think the first time I simply needed a different voice to fit the lines my brain was trying to form. I wonder if other writers have experienced a similar shift in voice, whether in poetry or in prose. Was there a specific event that brought on the change? Was it intentional?

Whatever it was for me, it has been a fun journey; from stormy nights that gave way to glittering fairy-tale landscapes, to a love for poetry that always draws me back.


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