I could wring my sister’s neck, I really could. She’s an excellent writer; and she could be an excellent poet, if she wanted to be. Although she enjoys composing little annoying verses to jab me with, like sticking pins in a voodoo doll, one time she wrote a free verse poem about my mother and baseball and submitted it to Spitball, the baseball literary magazine. One poem. And they accepted it and published it. (Wish I had the rights to reprint it here, but I don’t.) And she simply won’t write any more poetry.
She claims to hate poetry and not to understand poetry. I know the latter can’t be true. She couldn’t have written a good, enjoyable, publishable poem without understanding poetry. I judge contests regularly, and I see hundreds of poor poems by writers who think they like poetry, understand poetry, and can write poetry, yet there’s no proof in the poetic pudding. They don’t have the ear and they don’t have the comprehension. And they don’t read poetry, not really. I promise you, if they read even a poem a week, it would show in their work.
Yet my sister, the non-poet, who never reads poetry, either, wrote and published a good poem. That’s why I’d like to wring her neck (as would those contest entrants, no doubt). I know, it’s her business if she doesn’t want to write poetry. But I keep thinking of the interesting poems she could produce, whether she published them or not. They’d capture moments from her viewpoint only, in her unique language, offering a window on her life that remains shut and locked. What a loss.
I don’t talk about publishing much on this blog. There are plenty of places you can go for that information. I’m more interested in getting people to write whatever they enjoy, regardless of what they plan to do with it. I think it’s sad people believe they can’t write unless they want to make a career of it, get rich, garner fame. I’d rather nudge readers to just go ahead and write—poetry, blog posts, memoirs, journal entries, whatever. If you don’t want to share it, fine; but don’t deny yourself the pleasure of “putting words on paper,” an outdated term considering the effects of technology, but I’m still very fond of it.
You may not realize it, but your writing could be very precious to someone some day. Think about it: What if you came across letters, a diary, a batch of poems bound in ribbon, written by an ancestor. Imagine the significance of, say, an accounting of a very average day in the person’s life, all those delicious little details from the past. What would you give to uncover something like that?
Fortunately, my sister does write things when she has the time (she blogs here and here). Oddly enough, the other day she wrote about poetry. Take a look at what she had to say, and see if you agree with her contention that she doesn’t “understand” poetry.