Pillow vs. Shelf Poetry

blog-post-picture

Poet Marilyn Chin

When I first started writing the only genre I enjoyed was Fiction. I liked making up stories and being placed in worlds greater then our own. I thought Poetry was what you see on
the back of milk cartons and what my sister hides under her pillows. Poems about romantic love and heartbreak, both of which I have yet to experience. I continuously tried to write “poems” but I always ended up gagging and throwing away the paper. I was afraid of poetry until I was shown the work of writers like Yusef Komunyakaa, Marilyn Chin, and Billy Collins, new writing that introduced me to words and images I had never thought of before. They also had different points of view and I really loved exploring each writer’s likes and dislikes. Reading some contemporary poets helped me understand that poetry is not only about love. After reading and realizing that it isn’t something to be afraid of, I started looking for more poets and wanting to learn more about the art form. The first poem I wrote is about Vesuvius and Pompeii and children being caught in the dark smoke. I think the idea was really original, but my execution sounded more like prose then poetry. What I had yet to learn was how to use poetic language.

Diction and the way it’s placed in poetry is something that I struggled with when I first
started. It was something entirely new that I had yet to experiment within my fiction. The
specific choices writers make with every word isn’t something I learned until I studied poetry. Poetry, although fiction does this too, relies on the word to give context to a specific meaning or tone that leads the reader into believing something that’s going on in the poem. With fiction the writer can rely on a lot more words and actual scenes. Having this type of structure forced upon me was extremely hard because I had yet to think that every single thing in the story can have meaning, even the placement of the word “they.” It taught me to go deeper into vivid details. For example, when someone is talking about a paper cut they’ll say, “This papercut stings.” But using more poetic structure would be “My papercut sizzles like it was placed on a stove.” Or something along those lines. Really thinking of how to describe something in a completely unique and descriptive way can give the reader a new view into the mind of the writer and the story. Without these combined genre techniques my imagery would not nearly be as well developed as it is today. What I challenge myself to do is to have an original idea and describe it in a way that no other would. Being different and not fully following the patterns is what I enjoy doing, so I’m hoping to move forward with my ideas.

-McKenzie Fox, Social Media Editor