When you commit yourself to learning a “foreign” language, it is said that the best way to learn is through immersion. That means immersing yourself in the culture and the language to such an extent that it comprises the majority of what you speak and hear.
Poetry is a foreign language, though it is not foreign to the poet. It lives inside you and has a life of its own to such an extent that you must respectfully approach it and ask it to teach you the nuances of its locution. Though we tend to think that we dictate the poetry, the poetry in fact dictates the poet. Despite the fact that it arises out of the poet and is the outgrowth of all his/her/their experiences and memories, the language of its poetry surpasses us.
A few weeks ago, I finally made the commitment to write poetry every day. It’s one of the first things I do when I get up (after coffee and journaling), but I have learned that I have to be intentional about getting it out. Some of the poems from those morning writing sessions have been good, and some have not. But what it has taught me is to be less concerned about writing “good” poetry and more concerned with the aspect of dialing into myself and accessing whatever nebulous poetic forms are swirling around in the waters of my spirit.
Immersion, for me, has meant looking for poetry everywhere. It has meant looking into my memories and figuring out the poetic aspects of some the most mundane, and sometimes hurtful, experiences I’ve had. Buried somewhere in all those composite parts of my person, there is poetry. What I’ve realized, however, is that this process of immersion also assures me that I am made of poetry. That is the revelation of a poet.
Talking to a friend a few days ago, he expressed an uncertainty—Am I a poet. To him, to you, I offer this: You are MADE of poetry, you just may not yet understand all the idioms and dialects of your poetic person. A daily journey inward does the job of excavating the poetic self, dismantling the ego, humbling us, and bringing us to the very feet of poetry—as a student rather than a master. Many of us want to master poetry.
You probably never will.
Poetry is not meant to be mastered, it is meant to be surrendered to.
When we garden, we only have control over sowing the seeds and nurturing them as they grow. We have no control whatsoever over whether or not the plant decides to flower or fruit. We may think we do, but we don’t . The fact is, the plant has its own cellular agenda and it does what it does. In the end we are amazed at the end product of our efforts, but we weren’t active in the determination of the shape of the fruit. The exception to this is laboratory manipulation, which produces inorganic forms (seedless grapes, watermelons, etc.). But in the market, I tend to choose seeded fruit over seedless. Something about fruit without seeds freaks me out; seeds are supposed to be there.
The point is, inorganic, manipulated poetry … yeah, it’s pretty. But is it natural?
The naturalness of your poetic person … that’s the beauty of you. YOU don’t have to be anyone except who you are in your rawest intended form. You can only discover that if you immerse yourself in the deep and surrender to the mastery of the poem as its own entity. That requires relationship. In my estimation, we poets should bring ourselves to our poetry daily and ask it to master us.
Treat poetry like your most important relationship and it will return the love.