Category: Poetry

Writers: Poetry Can Sharpen Your Prose

For Writers: Ten Ways Poetry Can Improve Your Prose

  1. Writing poetry develops skills of concise wording (something we editors like!).

  1. The writing (and reading) of poetry can sharpen your observation skills.

  1. Because syntax matters in poetry, you will improve in your understanding of syntactic matters.

  1. Figures of speech used in poetry teach you finer subtleties of word usage and connotations and make you a better wordsmith.

  1. Poetic precision of words will sharpen your skill in choosing the most fitting, evocative, precise words for your prose.

  1. The rhythms and rhymes of poetry tune your ear to hear fluctuations and patterns in the sense and sound of language.

  1. Writing (or reading) a poem can provide a rejuvenating break from a long writing project. It may even break you out of writers block.

  1. Writing a poem can help you distill a thought, discover a kernel of truth, and find your focus on a topic to develop more fully later, in prose.

  1. A poem or short rhyme can add variety/spice/interest to a longer piece, when used in an organic way in a novel, memoir, blog post, even an expository piece of writing (and it looks good on the page).

  1. You may possibly find your calling as a poet and discover that your poetry will reach your readers’ minds and hearts more effectively than 1,000s of prose words.

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This list first appeared as a guest post on Marlene Bagnull’s blog “Write His Answer” at:

https://writehisanswer.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/why-write-poetry/


Photo credit:  ©David Lawton

Clouds of Glory

An unseasonably warm winter day (here in Colorado) yesterday prompted my husband and me to go out birding. We took our nature-loving granddaughter with us. We drove toward the mountains west of us, into a little canyon formed by a ridge along which a small creek flows, where an American Woodcock has been spotted (a common bird in some states but rare in Colorado).

Our granddaughter suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a rainbow cloud. I love rainbow clouds.”

I looked out the car window, and sure enough, all the colors of the rainbow were displayed in this cloud against a blue sky. I’ve never seen such a cloud in my life. Sometimes at dusk the Colorado sky is rimmed all around with clouds glowing orange and pink. This was about 2:45 p.m., thoughnot even close to sunset. The day was sunny, warm (for February), and dry. Yet this one, lone cloud contained a rainbow. We quickly and excitedly took pictures with our phones.

The three of us shared a moment of awe and wonder.

The past week I had been reading an old book by the Scottish writer and minister, George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel. In it, he quoted the poem by William Wordsworth that begins,

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home…

Then MacDonald quoted Henry Vaughn’s poem:

Happy those early days, when I
Shined in my angel-infancy!
Before I understood this place….
And looking backat that short space
Could see a glimpse of His bright face;
When on some gilded cloud, or flower
My gazing soul would dwell an hour
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity;
From God, who is our home

That sense of wonder that is part of childhood, that makes children spiritually sensitive, and that perhaps is a trailing cloud of the glory from which we each came when God created us a living soul, born into this world … I want to nurture this sense of wonder and awe as I become older. I want to see the rainbow clouds when they appear so briefly in the sky. I want to see and wonder at a little bird that surprisingly shows up in cold Colorado in February to forage along a tiny, protected, flowing stream full of watercress and fallen cottonwood leaves before flying on to its faraway spring destination.

George MacDonald wrote, “To cease to wonder is to fall plumb-down from the childlike to the commonplace—the most undivine of all moods intellectual. Our nature can never be at home among things that are not wonderful to us.”

 

Valentines, Lent, and Love Poems

GUEST POST by Mary Harwell Sayler

Today, Valentine’s falls on Ash Wednesday—the beginning of Lent and, in many churches, the annual 40-day season of introspection and self-examination that leads to confession, repentance, and the spiritual freedom needed to receive the joy of Easter.

At first, though, it seems ironic that a Valentine’s Day of flowers and candy coincides with a time typically thought of as giving up something—such as flowers and candy! But then, the colliding and coinciding can help us to see what they have in common with each other and this blog: love.

Praise God our Father!
Blessings on our Mother Earth.
We are their love child.

–Mary Harwell Sayler in PRAISE!

Love of the beloved needs expression! The highest examples of these come in the Bible, the trek toward Easter, and the love expressed in poetry. You’ve undoubtedly read love poems—from greeting card verse on a Valentine to the 23rd Psalm to the poetic lines of a romantic sonnet. [You may have] tried your hand at writing a love poem too.

But “love” has many faces.

Take, for example, this prose poem. I’ll explain it once you’ve had a chance to experience it.

Scavengers
(after reading Attila Jozsef)

Attila the Hungarian poet, I really love you. Please
believe me before you throw yourself beneath that
train. The fright of flying freight crushes my reading
of your prose poems—poems poised with insight
and odd juxtaposition. I try to rescue the paragraphs
you pose from extermination, reeling as I read. What
can I do but pet The Dog you left behind, ragged and
muddy, ready to avenge your wounds and scavenge
the pieces of God you hid in my upper berth on this
looming train?

–Mary Harwell Sayler in Faces in a Crowd

Ever since childhood, I’ve “loved” poetry, which led to my reading the best works of classical and contemporary poets as evidenced in the above poem….. Once my tastes in poetry became more eclectic … I discovered poets from all over the world, each of whom brought experiences beyond my own.

Attila Jozsef of Hungary was one such poet, with his thought-provoking, deliciously-worded, introspective poems (suitable for Lent) such as “The Dog.” But when I learned he’d committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train, that sad news stunned me into writing a poem pleading for life and poetry and, perhaps, for his forgiveness of those of us who have led easier lives.

Contemplation of our ease versus dis-ease, our lives versus death, our love versus bigotry, bias, boredom, and indifference gives us the stuff of which poetry and Lent are made. But the greatest of these is God’s Word of love.

Child, Child,

If God didn’t love you, no eyes, no ears
would weave into your gut, no
heart would arch into the inner soles
of your shoes, showing you where to go.

If God didn’t trust you, there would be
no joy to oil your neighbors, no love to
cover the sins of your enemies, no Good
News to paper the walls of your head.

Mary Harwell Sayler in Outside Eden

Healing the Wounded Inner Child

A poem I wrote after reading and editing the book, BRAVE, and finding I could relate to some of Janyne’s story:

Child In Me

You waited while I caught up with you,

child in me;

Till I could see what you could see

and set you free.

 

You waited with courage and watched with care

all while I groped

To live my life in need of us

but vague of hope.

 

Your impish ways allowed me glimpses,

a coaster ride;

I caught a laugh, a cry, a sigh,

but you played shy.

 

The saddened child would rise and I’d

be sick and crying.

Not to be held nor seen nor heard,

must feel like dying.

 

The needy child would seek attention

and want some more

Of what was offered to fill the void—

a shifty shore.

 

The frozen child who couldn’t move,

by terror stricken,

Had breathed the smoke and seen the flames

that raged and licked.

 

The visioning child would dream of safe,

delightful places,

To dance with elves and see the smiles

in flower faces.

 

The playful child came out with puppies,

a few friends and babies

Who didn’t stay but opened windows

on sunnier days.

 

The believing, trusting child heard the Word—

that rescued her.

She led the way for all the others

who needed Father/Mother.

 

I embrace you now; I see and hear

and treasure you.

Let’s hand-in-hand run free as one,

and live renewed.

 

‘Unite my heart to revere your name,’*

O, Lord, I pray.

And ‘Lead us on a level path’**

from day to day.

 

–Catherine Lawton

 

*Psalm 86:11

**Psalm 143:10

Poem excerpted from Glimpsing Glory : Poems of Living & Dying, Praying & Playing, Belonging & Longing by Catherine Lawton


Photo: © Can Stock / dmitrimaruta

Quotes About Poetry

Because I value the gift, solace, and challenge of poetry, I have started collecting quotes that help illumine the process and purpose of poetry. I’ll add to the list as I find good ones, from both historical and contemporary sources. Here is what I have so far:

Poetry is:

“…the music of the soul.” ~Voltaire

“…the art of uniting pleasure with truth.” ~Samuel Johnson

“…the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself.” ~William Hazlitt

“…[that which] makes my body so cold no fire can warm me,” [and makes me} “feel as if the top of my head were taken off.” ~Emily Dickinson

“…not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us.” ~T.S. Eliot

“…the breath and finer spirit of knowledge.” ~William Wordsworth

“The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.” ~Dylan Thomas

“Make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came.” ~Wendell Berry

“Through poetry, [we] can inquire about the world and [our] place in it…. It is a communal form of inquiry directed towards discovering universal truths.” ~Nayeli Riano

“Poetry is, to me, the art of putting the NOW into words.” ~Gary Haddis

“Poetry calls upon us to probe our deepest emotions and longings.” ~Sharon Olds

“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.” ~Robert Frost

“People who pray, need to learn poetry.” ~Eugene Peterson

“To elevate the soul, poetry is necessary.” ~Edgar Allen Poe

“A good poet tries to lead you into universal experience by leading you into a shot of concrete experience–one flower, one frog…That’s what it takes to pull you into the depth of everything.” ~Richard Rohr

“Poetry, like faith, can look at the back as well as the front of reason; it can survey reason all round.” ~Charles Williams

“Poetry, in capturing the moment, captures the soul.” ~Mary Harwell Sayler

“A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling—not knowing or believing or thinking.” ~E.E. Cummings

“In poetry the words are the body and the ‘theme’ or ‘content’ is the soul.” ~C.S. Lewis

“A poet is a man who is glad of something and tries to make other people glad of it, too.” ~George MacDonald (in his novel, At the Back of the North Wind)

“What draws us to poetry is its ability to connect with us by burying ideas beneath the mere words written. Subtext is the magic that keeps us coming back. But in order for the magic to work, the text above the subtext must always remain somewhat ambiguous.” ~Greg Boyd (in regard to biblical poetry)

“To me, that’s the gift of poetry—it shapes an endless conversation about the most important things in life. … Reading poems can help bring clarity and insight to emotions that can be confusing or contradictory.” ~Caroline Kennedy

PRAISE! for Easter

Are you feeling pressed down by the negativity of the world—bad news, worries, hurts, fears, anger?

If you enjoy contemporary, spontaneous, free verse—or if you are willing to try poetry as a remedy for the affliction of a heavy spirit—Cladach has just released Mary Harwell Sayler‘s book, PRAISE! Poems.

Read this book during Holy Week and be ready on Easter to sing “Hallelujah!”

Let an explosion of praise break forth in your own life with adoration and celebration of our good God!

While these short, contemporary poems acknowledge the realities around us, they also look for the good in everything.

Sections within the book include: Praise • Prayers • Easter • Creation • Wonder • Christmas.

Here are a few sample poems from the book:

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