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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Poems that make us feel

Poems that make us feel work best if they get real!

For centuries, poetry writing has provided emotional release for poets whose work, in turn, reassures others as though to say, “Yes, I have those feelings too.” Sadly though, some abused poets become abusive speakers, lashing out until readers feel victimized by words in print, while other poets have used emotionalism for shock value or manipulative device. This can be effective if handled responsibly, but besides being a type of sensationalism, feigned emotion demonstrates sentimentalism – a word usually associated with syrupy verse or platitudes but, in this case, representative of the opposite extreme. Either way, sentimentalism reflects an artificial and disproportionate response unlike true emotion.

The content of emotion expresses typical feelings most people have.

If you’ve actually experienced or witnessed an emotion, write about it, of course, but be as accurate as you can about those feelings and how they affect you or other people. Conversely, if you have any hope at all about anything, your poems can also reflect that. Who, for instance, hasn’t at least noticed fear of the unknown, anger when wronged, frustration when thwarted, or hurt when rejected? Most people understand such emotions, which can be written about from all sorts of perspectives and with every possible purpose in mind. But have we not also honestly felt or seen occasions of joy, awe, wonder, or pleasure? If so, we might acknowledge those gifts in our poetry too.

During times of tumult, enthusiastic fervor, and other emotional peaks, listen intently to what is said and how it is expressed.

To clarify further, contrast or compare: i.e., How deep is the worry? How charged the anger? How high the joy?

Noting emotions as they occur can help you express passion in poetry – especially if this comes in reaction to an experience, problem, or concern that almost everyone encounters as expressed in my poem below:

Expiration Date

I can't seem to get over
your dying like that.
Things I thought I knew
about you did not include
this option – not so soon.
No longer am I satisfied
with nebulous concepts
or indefinite infinities.
I want to know, precisely,
how much bone you have retained
and whether anything was gained
from being good.

Should I still hope
you'll wait for me?
If so, where will I be
inclined to find you –
behind which cloud or nebula?
Tell me, how does it feel
for each cell to unloosen
into dust? And, for what
indeterminate time
does rust remain?

Will my foot still ache
from that day I walked,
barefoot and careless,
over a high threshold?
When I dare again to speak,
will everyone hear, exactly,
what I most meant to say?

©2019, This blog post came from “The Content of Emotion” in the Christian Poet’s Guide to Writing Poetry by Mary Harwell Sayler - an ebook which includes the above poem “Expiration Date” as an example of the topic under discussion

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