One of my writers’ groups had a discussion on poetry last night. This being my field of creativity, I, of course, HAD to go. It was a very lively discussion, too. A lot of the people there said that they used to write poetry, but haven’t in a very long time for various reasons. One person, if I’m remembering this correctly, thanked me for continuing to do so. What I remember clearly was my reply: “I didn’t have a choice!”
This is quite true. My first poem that wasn’t forced out of me by a teacher was written when I was 14. “Dreamdeath” was the title. I had a view of poems as being girly, or pansy-ish, or whatever, and was as such not given to thinking that this was something I would want to do. At least not consciously. I couldn’t say why I wrote that first poem that day except that I was COMPELLED to do it. I still have the fear when I tell someone I write poetry that they’ll apply the stigmas I believed were there when I was 14. I’ll tell people I’m a lyricist, which is true since I do write musical accompaniment to a lot of my pieces, but I think it sounds a little more macho maybe to say lyricist instead of poet.
Regardless of the name one uses for what I do, by 16 or 17, I was churning out poems/lyrics. I did intend them to be used in songs even then, having bought my first bass guitar and amplifier at 16 and figuring I was going to be in the next Motley Crue (he admitted embarrassingly).
My favorite bass player now, Geddy Lee from the band Rush, once said in an interview that to become a better musician, you had to play with musicians better than yourself. It will force you to elevate your skills to their level. I think the same thing works for writing, or it did with me, at least. I started out writing lyrics (very sadly) similar to those of the music I listened to. It was shit.
I eventually got into bands like Rush, Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Sting, and others which have actual, real-live intelligence put into the words. By elevating my lyricists of choice, my own skills elevated. I got pretty good, if I can say so, but then I read something new: John Keats. Kaboom. I progressed by lightyears over where I’d been. I didn’t even read that much of Keats in the grand scheme of things, but it changed what I did. Perhaps it was the phrasing, some use of alliteration, I don’t know. I’m just glad it took hold.
Many, many years later, I still need to do this, my writing. In fact, I think I write my songs so that my words will have a vehicle, rather than writing words because songs need lyrics. I have demons to exorcize, and this is how I do it. I can’t imagine what and where I’d be without this outlet.
I have gotten so much positive feedback from those with whom I’ve shared my writing, which is almost as rewarding as having created the work in the first place. I have heard artists of all types refer to their creations as being like their children, and that they had to “birth” each one. I agree with that. I do see them as like my children, and I’m proud of them. You want them all to be successful in their own right, but of course this just isn’t possible. You still want the best for them, though, and want them to be regarded well.
Regardless of whether or not this makes any sense to you and equally regardless of whether you choose to call what I do lyrics or poems or simply WRITING, it’s something I still HAVE to do. It’s almost as important to my existence as blood, air, and physical sustenance.
Hey, Jordan! I’m one of those people who has fallen off the poetry wagon and is trying hard to get back on. I belong to a poetry group that meets once a month in Woodbury. If you’d like the info, I’ll be glad to share it with you. They’re always looking for new members. Yes, I think lyrics are poetry!
Fran, I’d absolutely love the info. I’d looked for poetry groups on meetup.com, since SJ Writers Group and Seeking the Muse are both on there. Unfortunately, everything for poetry on meetup seems to to be based in Philly, and I’m not crazy about going into the city if I don’t have to (or even when I do).
I enjoyed this last post because you shared your feelings and fears of writing, which we all share, but you said it so well. Sorry I wasn’t at the last meeting, but hope to see you all soon