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On Poetry

Photo by Ilya Ilyukhin on Unsplash

This semester I was blessed to have Asian Literature as one of my subjects. In the class, rather than fully reading pieces, we started something similar to a writing workshop. I was so excited until I couldn’t write a single word. It made me think, could I even write at all?

Poetry is complicated. It made me realise that being poetic with what you’re writing doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re writing a poem. In conversations with other bloggers, I’ve mentioned that Lang Leav isn’t a poet. It was a few sentences from my professor last semester that made me realise that. I used to love her writing but there’s no thrill in it. What she says is what it is. It just sounds nice. 

In a handout she (our professor) gave us, it stated different tools to write poetry. Metaphor and Imagery is such a huge thing. Then comes along simile and other literary devices. Metaphor replaces your adjectives, which makes the whole piece a lot harder to write and a lot more personal. At the same time, metaphor hides whatever it is you want to say behind an almost clear wall. I mentioned in a reply to someone that Poetry is like being bare naked behind a tinted glass. It’s your heart and soul written in subconsciously chosen words. With imagery, your senses are your best friend. It creates the atmosphere of the piece. It’s not limited to what you see but with what you smell, hear, touch and taste. It’s a memory revived in very few words. 

Before we started with writing in class, our professor gave our an activity wherein we’d write whatever noun it is that enters our mind for 5 minutes. We repeated that process with verbs, imagery, names, ideals, adjectives and natural objects. We were supposed to cross our the first five we wrote down (because we were still conscious when we wrote them) then choose 10 from each category to put in a flashcard. Then after that, we were supposed to describe/write a colour without mentioning what it is. It was a challenge. I ran out of words so early and really hated myself. But it was good exercise. The following meetings, we had our “clustering” and “free fall” activity wherein clustering, with a flashcard we picked out, we were supposed to write down images (imagery) that we remember from it. Then with a specific cluster, we’d write our free fall which is just continuously writing for 3 minutes with it. In our clusters, we were asked to omit any adjectives present and turn it into a metaphor, but the metaphor mustn’t have any adjectives also because duh. 

So what is poetry really? How is a piece called a poem? What does it need to have? What doesn’t it need? Well, poetry is a person’s personal language. Maybe that’s why there are a lot of pieces we couldn’t really understand because we’re just seeing snippets of images from a person’s specific memory and not just pure emotion. It’s something more than a sad person writing so poetic. It’s like a can of worms, a whole personal story present behind carefully chosen words for everyone to see for what it is. We’ve been taught that poetry hides when in fact it doesn’t. It’s right there in front of us, we just don’t see it.