“Prose: words in their best order; poetry: the best words in the best order.” ― Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Like Robert Brower, the editor of Poetic Asides at Writer’s Digest, I began writing poetry in high school. Some sappy love poems, some nature oriented, some expressing my love to God. Years went by and I wrote on occasion. But, then I began more serious dabbling in poetry when I became involved in the PAD (Poem a Day) challenge that occurs in April via Brower’s column online. I also taught poetry to 6th graders and saw many of them blossom into poets by the end of our time together.
I find poetry fun and freeing; comforting and challenging. I enjoy word play, so rhyming and formulaic poetry serves a purpose for me there. I also find I need the outlet that poetry provides. I can express myself when no other way will do. Poetry also challenges me to find and arrange “the best words in the best order.”
Since it was 41 years ago today that I graduated from high school, I’ve been walking down memory lane all afternoon. It’s the only exercise I’ve had all day.
I found the newspaper clipping with a few quotes from our commencement speech, given by a Dr. Paul Mori. One thing he said was,
“Enthusiasm is more important than professional skill.”
I think he must have both, because when I googled him, this is what I found:
Dr. Paul Mori Jr, MD is a radiology doctor who practices in Jacksonville, FL. He is 92 years old and has been practicing for 69 years.
That is just amazing to me! To find your calling and passion and stick with it for 69 years must take a whole lot of enthusiasm and commitment.
He also said:
“The single most important tool you have is the knowledge of the English language and the ability to communicate.”
I feel like I left high school with this tool dull and rusty. Over the years I have tried to sharpen it and use it so it would not stay rusty. I don’t think it was just me from my school, but many students in many schools in the seventies graduated without a lot of fundamentals. Today I can skillfully use verbs like google and tweet, but I wish that I’d been more like Napoleon Dynamite back then. I wish I’d followed my heart into journalism.
Instead, I headed off to college to major in marketing. Eventually, after four kids, I graduated with a degree in education and had the joy of sharing my knowledge of English with children. Now, however, I’ve come full circle, back to where my heart was my junior year. I write. I don’t do it for a living, but I do feel enlivened and purposeful when I’m writing.
I don’t remember Dr. Mori’s speech. But, I think we all went out into the the world that afternoon enthusiastically. Oh, to go back 41 years and grab some of that now!
So, the last day of PAD arrived with a prompt of “The _________” . I went with the theme of the whole month. I love this poetic marathon every year; I just hope to keep at it. I hope to polish up a few poems and submit some for publication. Perhaps THIS will be the year!
she breathes the air of yesterday infused with memories sweet and clear outside her window, falling rain transports her to childhood afternoons or to the coast of Ireland or to a washed out hope
she dreams of possibilities and regrets possibilities give her words that soar regrets form melancholic stanzas and so she writes into the night on tear-stained paper
she walks through days alone gathering images and syllables saving them in her pocket hiding them in her heart until they spill out unrestrained and satisfying
Today I’m going to share some lovely sentences – just for your enjoyment.
“The slightly porky man on the other side of the Plexiglas has back-combed hair and arms covered in tattoos…Is that something an adult person in a healthy state of mind would consent to? Going about with his arms looking like a pair of pajamas?” from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
“She expects fustiness, an elder funk, but the room smells mildly of soap and books and dried seaweed.” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
“It is because people are mostly layers of violence and tenderness…” from One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
“I mourn for the loss of dreams and the presence of nightmare.” from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
“It’s the things we don’t expect that just rip the scab off,” – said Grandpa from Stand Tall by Joan Bauer
“Every lavish home contains people who have seen disease. Every lawn that must be maintained is attached to a marriage that also must be maintained.” from God of the Mundane by Matt Redmond
“…soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees…” from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“He was a mean little runt. The two of them together benasties the mind.” from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
“… I could see how quickly I might become a woman gnawing on a chicken leg over the kitchen sink for her dinner,…” from The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
“She’s wearing a green cardigan with a neat zigzag pattern and dusty blue mom-jeans…” from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
“… shriveled like a chickpea with the cold.” from Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
“You just find something you’re passionate about and share it creatively and enthusiastically” – Rick Steves
Rick Steves is well known for his travel shows on PBS. I don’t get to see him often, but I enjoy his shows when I do. He loves to travel and it shows. He also loves people – this comes through as you watch him interact with those he meets along the way. He is truly interested and keeps his viewers interested. He writes about travel and he comes across the same way in his writings.
“I just like writing, you know? I guess I’m a word person or something. It’s the spirit of third-grade show and tell.” – Rick Steves
I love this – it’s exactly how I feel! I, too, am a word person, although I wish I knew more words. I, in truth, do need to improve my vocabulary.
Writing not only helps me express myself, but it helps me to think things through when I write about them. And it helps me to learn more about the world and myself along the way. As writers, if we don’t care about what we are writing it will show. And if we DO care, that, too, will come through in our enthusiasm and knowledge of our topic. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, if you don’t care, I doubt your readers will, either.
So, find your passion and share it with the world. There is someone out there who will benefit from your knowledge
“…I was paying for a book one day – I remember this so clearly- when Mr. Penumbra looked me in the eye and said, ‘Rosemary’” she does a good Penumbra impression-”’Rosemary, why do you love books so much?”
“And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know.’” She’s animated, girlish now: “‘I suppose I love them because they’re quiet, and I can take them to the park,’” She narrows her eyes. “He watched me, and he didn’t say a word. So then I said, ‘Well, actually, I love books because books are my best friends.’ Then he smiled – he has a wonderful smile – and he walked over and got on that ladder, and climbed higher than I’d ever seen him climb.”
From Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
This got me to thinking about why I love books. I agree they are quiet and I can take them just about anywhere. I wouldn’t say it’s because they are my best friends, though perhaps I should consider making them my best friends seeing as I need some. Anyhow, why DO I love books so much?
I love that I can travel to places I might not ever get to otherwise. I can also read about places where I’ve been and relive memories from past times and places.
I love to meet characters that inspire me, make me smile, make me cry. I come to care about what happens to these characters. Watching them live and grow, suffer and rejoice, is often a balm to my spirit. Many of them remind me of people I know.
I love to read another author’s words and think ‘A-ha!’ because it’s exactly what I am thinking or feeling. Sometimes I am surprised at the emotions that rise up within me. Sometimes the words lead to thoughts and inspire words in me that I must write down.
It’s not just books, either. It’s bookstores, especially used ones, with their lovely old smells and shelves of treasures just waiting to be unearthed. It’s the bookish conversations with staff and other customers. It’s the bookmarks and notepads. And sometimes it’s the coffee.