A Poem Is Born

A Poem Is Born

 It begins with an image, however fleeting.  Maybe it’s the way the sunrise paints the surface of the lake.  Maybe it’s a ladybug making its slow trek across a twig or the crawl of a turtle crossing a busy highway.  Maybe it’s the formation of birds creating a cloud pattern across the blueness of the sky.  Maybe it’s the way a leaf blows in the breeze in its journey toward the earth.  Whatever the image, it imprints itself on the brain and waits, the process much like human birth.

Later, maybe only minutes or hours or even perhaps days, words begin to form.  Clusters of thought expand the image into lines of poetry, and then into expression of feeling, and finally comes meaning, for without meaning, there is no poem.

I was a college student before I knew any of this.  It was my study of Romantic poetry that revolutionized everything I thought I knew about poetry.  Keats enabled me to see how feeling and meaning can be inspired by a Grecian urn.  Wordsworth created for me that “host of golden daffodils” and I felt his joy and depth of emotion.  Shelley’s “To a Skylark” taught me that a poem is much more than its subject.  I experienced Byron’s melancholy communion with nature, and I connected to his poems in ways I still remember.

I read a lot of modern poetry, but I live with the poems of the past.  Some of today’s poetry with its obscure thoughts and disjointed phrases confuses me.  Do I really want to be confused when I read a poem?  Some poems seem so personal and bewildering, I wonder how anyone could be affected by them.  I want to leave a poem a different person.  Isn’t that the way it should be?

So for me it always starts with the image that has to go through stages–conception, development and creativity, and finally birth.  It’s sometimes a very slow process, but it can only come to life through emotion and finally meaning.  It takes quiet contemplation, not so easy in today’s frantic world, but when there is peace, poetry is born.


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