Poems are everywhere, they are all around you, said the poet Enda Wyley to me and a bunch of other word fiends the other day. Instantly I saw words swimming around me in the air, ready to be plucked down and arranged prettily on the page.
Prettily, and with meaning, I hope. Now, in mid-life, I’ve waded into poetry fearlessly, having previously only paddled in it like a wary toddler. Frankly, I was scared of it. I’ve always had some favourites, poems that were ‘easy’ to understand, by writers like Mary Oliver or E.E. Cummings, but I steered clear of many others; I don’t know – because I was scared, I guess. Not my idea of fun to discover, stumbling around words strung artfully on a page, that I might be, as I suspected all along, a bit stupid.
Oh but what a shame! No human is stupid! We all feel, and that is all we need to ‘get’ poetry. Last week, I also saw a young girl, maybe 16 or so, reading out a poem she’d written, and I was less enthralled by the words than by the way she was speaking them – mainly with passion and conviction that what she had to say mattered. Of course it did – it mattered to her.
I’ve started reading poems to my kids, and if you find the right one for them, you can see a light switching on inside them, which is joyous. Nonsense things (like Shel Silverstein’s Hat: Teddy said it was a hat/So I put it on./Now Dad is saying,/”Where the heck’s the toilet plunger gone?”) delight them but it’s the rhythm that gets them, it is innate in little ones to respond to rhythm. These are probably all really obvious things to state – but they weren’t obvious to me!
So poems are all around you, in motion, words dancing and fizzing – queuing up and jostling each other to try to get on to a page near you. If you have the urge to write one, then do. I’m going to try to capture more myself.