Pretending to be a poet. And failing.

Maybe it’s the fact that I took so long to actually appreciate poetry that accounts for my inability to write it. Okay, I shouldn’t say inability. I should say fear. Or dread. Or apprehension. 

I have to write five hundred poems for my class. Okay, I only have to write six, to my knowledge. But when it comes to poems, six is the equivalent of five hundred in my mind.

It’s one thing to write a poem in my journal on a rainy day, or even to share it on here if I feel like it and admit it has seen no revision whatsoever. It’s a totally different thing to write poetry under pressure, to have to read it aloud to other people, to try to model it after the poetry of the greats. To stand face to face with my woefully inadequate vocabulary and my inability to paint pictures with words. To try to describe something that is simply not describable–at least, not if the poet has a woefully inadequate vocabulary and cannot rightfully call herself a poet. 

Reading a great work of fiction or non-fiction inspires me and makes me feel powerful. Reading a great work of poetry, on the other hand, only makes me feel like a tiny speck being crushed by the weight of the universe. I can write a poem in that state of mind, but then I want to tear it into tiny bits and burn every last one of those tiny bits and pretend the whole thing never happened.

In other words, I feel so desperately unsure of myself that I want to go into cardiac arrest every time I sit down to write poetry.

I wonder if Keats felt that way?

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2 Responses to Pretending to be a poet. And failing.

  1. Carrie says:

    You may struggle, but you do have the ability to write beautiful poetry. I also know that you have an excellent vocabulary, although picturesque writing always seems to call for better words than the ones we know. I do wonder if the great poets find writing difficult or if it just pours out of them naturally.

    Actually, I bet 500 poems would be easier than 6. Then you could mass-produce them and not have to analyze every word and thought.

    • emucoleman says:

      Ha, ha! I didn’t think about it that way. Then I could write a bunch of 2-liners. “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow…” Thank you. I think poetry is the hardest place for me to accept my own style, because when I read other poems I think, “I want to write a poem just like that!” And I have to accept that my own poems can be beautiful too, even if they’re not exactly like the ones I most admire.

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