Poetry

Get Down on It: Writing Poetry

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As Ron told us, I started wondering about my final project and what I could write about. To be honest, this is a real challenge for me, because I feel like writing something that is completely different from anything I’ve done before. It does really scare me, even if it should not – I guess being scared is fine to the point when it does not block you and prevent you from writing. But if it does, then things become a little too difficult. So, being scared is fine as long as it is only made out of uncertainty and doubt. I am very convinced that literature should challenge both the writers and the readers and make them look at things from the perspective of those who are not likely to be heard in society. I write about sexuality, violence, rape, marginalisation. But I would also like to write about joy, about miracles and beautiful things. I am a bit confused. I like to write about dark things and to make the reader wonder who is the good one, and why the good protagonist acts like a dick, or why the reader feels empathy for someone who’s clearly a bad person. I would like to wonder what being a bad person exactly mean. But I would like to challenge myself and experiment other things.

Ron gave us interesting essays to read at home and to consider when thinking about our projects. One of the things I absolutely should do is to try to experiment with form and with interesting layouts.

We had to read an essay about the letter &, written by Mairead Small Staid and called The 27th letter. In the 19th century alphabet, it followed the letter z and it meant “and per se and”. A logogram masqueraded as a letter, a letter that is also a word. This symbol existed long before its name (ampersand): it was used by ancient scholars: it represented the Latin et. Poet Larry Lewis uses it a lot. Keats used it as well: that is, when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason… Mysteries, doubts and uncertainties are, says the author, the quarts and neutrinos of poems. In the FAQ page of the Writers Guild of America, the difference between using “and” and “&” in writing credit is explained. The “and” is used when writers wrote separately, the “&” if the text was produced by a team of writers. In screenplay, the same happens.

In poetry, finding an “&” can trigger a sense of closeness, being a single unit and make the two terms that are linked as a single unit themselves. It is a knot that ties, a knot about to be tied. Symbols are easy, but not meaningless.

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After reading this essay, I wanted to experiment a lot with other symbols. What always strikes me about poetry is the hugely wide range of possibilities that you may want to consider and to use in your poetry. You can shape your poems into any form you like, you can use illustrations that you drew by yourself and you can insert as many strange and weird symbols as you want. I guess the important thing is to be aware of their meaning and to take careful choices. These symbols may work or may look too “forced” inside a poem. What I guess is worth doing is trying, trying to see if they have a meaning, it they are used at their best, if they look good on the page. The best attempt is not the final draft, but a draft that teaches something to the writer.

On this matter, we read another interesting essay by Annie Lemott about shitty first drafts. The author stated that none of her writer friends produces good first drafts, and that we always have to give us the opportunity to write very bad stuff in order to learn something from what we just spit out on the page. In fact, at the end of a very weepy, cheesy, bad first draft there could be a wonderful sentence, a great image that may trigger a whole new, beautiful piece. It may point the direction where we need to go or want to go. I really related to the part where the author calls a first draft a sort of a “child’s draft”: “where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later”.

The author knows that, when writing, there are so many voices in their head that will try to critique them as much as possible. There will be William Burroughs, complaining about how boring the author’s writing is, and then their parents, who will be worrying as well, and many other voices that any writer can hear in their head. The author of the essay suggests to treat those voices as small mice to close in a glass jar and consider, but also silence, at the right time when writing. Let it all flow. I must not be scared to experiment and I must not be scared to write bullshit.

I want to start considering and thinking about my final project keeping these essays in mind: what I think I learnt in these past 5 sessions is that I should not be scared, and these two essays represent exactly what I fear the most: to write complete bullshit and to experiment with form. I need to let myself go.

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