I finally have a post. Things have been going awry with my laptop and then my internet connection so I haven’t been able to get online long enough to post. I am working on a poem that occupied my mind during my last walk at the reservoir so, while I consider iambs and rhythm and rhymes, I thought I’d post about poetry.
Poetry plays an important part of my reading and writing life. The musician in me likes reading poetry and likes reading it aloud so I can hear the rhythm and beat the author chose. Reading aloud also allows me to attempt to feel what the author intends for me to feel. I do the same when I write poetry. I read my own aloud because every syllable is deliberate. I am composing rather than writing as I attempt to put together words and rhythms that paint not only a picture for my reader but introduce them to the song I am creating. One of my favorite poets is a master at this. When Edna St. Vincent Millay writes “nor yet a floating spar to men that sink and rise and sink and rise and sink again”1, I know how it feels to be adrift in the sea: overwhelmed, unable to set my feet on anything solid, struggling to keep from drowning.
I read poetry as a writer because of the pictures authors are able to paint with words. Sometimes there will be that perfect phrase that shows me how to put in words the image important in my fiction. One of the most sense filled poems I’ve ever read is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur. I can see myself lounging in a garden-without any mosquitoes and lumpy ground, of course- as Omar Khayyam writes, “Here with a loaf of Bread beneath the bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse-and Thou”2.
And then, I have found poetry to be the perfect medium for connecting with God. I feel what Rabia of Basra feels when she writes, “Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist…In my soul there is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church that dissolve, that dissolve in God”3. I read her words and my heart knows it is so.
There are so many other poets whose works are on my bookshelves: poets whose works that span the ages. Emily Dickenson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Shel Silverstein (because silly verse is important as well), sit beside the Sagas of the Icelanders, Ovid, and Homer. I love that poetry has been a form of expression since before humankind wrote their words down. A cry formed in the human heart and found expression in poetry.
These poems often went hand in hand with music which brings me to my go-to poems: the Psalms. This collection of songs, prayers, and poems (my Amplified Bible even calls Psalm 16 a poem of David) are some of my favorite poetry. Whenever I pick up a new translation of the Bible, I immediately turn to the Psalms in order to hear these poems in a different way. A preacher I listen to recently said all of life is found in the Psalms. That made me turn to them again trying to read them with new eyes and I’ve found what he said is true.
Every expression of life can be found in the Psalms. Exaltation, Despair, Love, Betrayal, Longing, Fulfillment, Anxiety, Triumph: the gamut of human emotion is found in the Psalms. So is brilliant imagery. The writer in me reads and re-reads “Behold, (the wicked man) conceives iniquity and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. Psalm 7:14” and “He made darkness His secret hiding place; as His pavilion (His canopy) round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. Psalm 18:11”. I don’t yet know how these mental pictures will end up woven into my fiction but I hold them at the ready.
As a person of Faith, the Psalms are a way I connect with God. Most of the time I go to them for that purpose rather than as a work of literature but I think they are that as well: some of the most beautiful ancient literature composed before Rome itself rose and fell.
- Collected Poems, Edna St. Vincent Millay. “Sonnet XXX”.
- Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam of Naishapur. Translated by Edward Fitzgerald and Illustrated by Charles Stewart.
- Love Poems From God. Rabia of Basra. “In My Soul”.
Note: All quotes from the Psalms were taken from The Amplified Bible published by Zondervan.