I Can't Write Poetry

Poetry is something that has always left me dumbfounded. It’s just such a slippery and foreign matter—kind of like French—that can easily teeter between being a jumble of nonsense or the most electric thing I’ve ever touched, with a beauty that’ll suck my guts and leave them dry.

Writing poetry is the thing that really gnaws at me the most. I’ve tried my hand several times at it but I feel like I just can’t seem to get the hang of it. Every time I sit down and try to write poetry, I feel like a wanderer shipwrecked in a jungle of strange syntax and even stranger imagery, and miles away from the familiar paragraphs and grammatical rules.

As someone who has always been most comfortable in writing personal essays and memoirs, I feel like my approach to poetry isn’t imaginative enough, it’s too stiff with reality. That’s the thing— when I write I want to get every detail right, describe everything as how it happened. But poetry seems to me much more imaginative, fleeting, with soft crinkled edges to always leave it up to the reader to fill in the edges. It’s about feelings, and pretty things that would never make sense outside of a poem. It’s about oxbows, and pomegranate seeds, and the force of a thousand waterfalls. But I’m wary of when I write about things that sound cool but don’t mean anything to me.

And yet, I often find that the poems that have made me want to sink into them again and again are the ones where I don’t exactly understand what they’re trying to say but can still follow an unwavering thread of coherence. It’s that happy balance I want to aim for, of a poetry that moves subtly not explicitly. The only question is how??

Another thing: A lot of the time, I feel claustrophobic when writing poetry. I’m much more used to letting my thoughts flow in long, stretching sentences that can sometimes extend on for a whole paragraph than the terse, punchy, BANG language of poetry. It’s like I have to go from easily stuffing an 8 oz. burger into a ravenous teenager to trying to wedge the same burger in a 65-year-old with a shriveled stomach. You know? Everything has to be condensed, filleted into the choicest parts. And it just feels unnatural and awkward for me, like I have to snap off my flow of thoughts prematurely.

I don’t know, maybe the problem is that I’m scared of venturing into the unknown. I fear sentimentality, I fear sounding crazy, I fear my poem isn’t “poetic” enough. Am I doing something wrong? I feel like there are unsaid rules poets out there just know, like on where to break a sentence, where to insert a line break, or where to insert a comma. Or maybe it’s just based on feeling.

Anyways, this post is getting long enough. I’m still hopelessly at a loss of where to begin my next poem and I feel like my mind is brimming with a flood of metaphors that just can’t be stitched together but I’m going to keep at it. I think I’m going to take a deep dive into some online literary magazines and poetry blogs to get some inspiration.

Until next time,

Jooce

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