Michaeline: A Season for Poetry

Amanda Gorman, youth poet laureate, in front of the Library of Congress in 2017. The 22-year-old recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb”, at the 2021 presidential inauguration. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I think Amanda Gorman’s poem at the inaugural (“The Hill We Climb” here at CNN) is going to revive an interest in poetry in the mainstream. She did an excellent job both in the composing and in the reading. I love her use of alliteration, and the striking images: “. . . Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest . . . .” And I really like the allusions, both the ones I caught, and the ones I only suspected. And the repetition? Yes, I like the repetition. I like the way it emphasizes her points, plays with the words and turns the meaning from one shade to another like a light show on a winter’s evening.

I have to admit, I’m picky about poetry, which feels weird to me because I’m very undiscriminating when it comes to prose. I can enjoy the back of a tissue box. Poetry is harder than prose. You have to read each word, and you often have to think about those words on many different levels. And so much of it is about depressing topics. But when poetry works for me,

 it occupies that twilight place between prose and lyric. It telegraphs a message, it bypasses my brain and goes straight to the pit of my stomach. I laugh and I cry more easily with a poem that speaks to me.

I love writing poetry. I’m not an analytical writer at all, and I’m probably doing it wrong. Haiku and limerick are some of my favorite forms. They are so structured, and so short, so you have to use your words well to have an impact. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than a well-written sentence, and if I can pull it off in five-seven-five syllables, I feel extra-accomplished.

I sometimes do birthday greetings for an online group, and one month, I decided to write everyone a group-themed poem for each birthday. I enjoy introducing a randomness to my writing, and that includes birthday greetings, so I made up blank cards with a form of poetry written on each one. I think I had to come up with 13 different styles.

Before nearly every one, I experienced stage fright. I looked up the requirements of each style on the day (including rhyme scheme, rhythm and examples), and then spent at least 30 seconds sitting with sheer anxiety. I was sure I would never be able to do it . . . .

And then an idea would come, and I’d write it down. I’d google the possible rhymes for the words, and the next line would come, and before I knew it, I had a limerick or even a sestina.

Japanese woman in a yukata next to a well, carrying a bucket.
Fukuda Chiyo-ni, also known as Kaga no Chiyo, was a well-known writer of haiku in 18th century Japan. She’s known for: Morning glory! The well bucket entangled, I ask for water. Illustrated here. (translation: Wikipedia. Image via Wikimedia Commons).

There are a lot of advantages to making a poem your writing warm-up for a day or two. Poems are compact. Poems suggest rather than show. Poems hook into a different part of the brain and can shed new light on a plotting problem you have in prose. And as a warm-up exercise, they can stay in your exercise file forever, and never see the light of day. You can be absolutely embarrassing and forthright.

If you’d like to read more about poetry and prose writing, I have posts about haiku, limericks and sestinas. Or just put “poem” in the search bar of this site. Many of the Ladies have a fondness for poetry.

After Amanda’s amazing work during the inauguration, I’m a little shy to share my work. But if I get over it, I might be persuaded to write something in the comments later. I hope you’ll share your favorite poems, or even originals for the season, in the comments!

(Kaga no Chiyo: Wikipedia link.)

2 thoughts on “Michaeline: A Season for Poetry

  1. I thought Amanda Gorman did a tremendous job. I loved the poem, thought it hit all the right emotional notes and told a great story. And she did a wonderful job reading it. Her hands were so expressive, and that yellow coat!

    Michaeline, have you ever thought of trying a haiku or sestina for Friday’s writing sprints? You wouldn’t have to use all the words….

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