Why I write poetry is a question I’ve been asking myself since I started writing during senior year of high school. Recently I’ve been reconsidering the question.
What compels me fill a blank sheet of paper with ragged lines of rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and meter? Of all writing, why did I choose poetry?
This post is an attempt to answer these questions.
“Compulsion” is a word that I keep coming back to as I consider my answer. In a sense, I don’t feel like I made a choice to write poetry. It happened. And then it kept happening. And I felt compelled to keep writing. There was a bunch of stuff fluttering against the windows of my mind like trapped birds trying to get out. One day I opened a window.
It was this compulsion that resulted in me writing poems during my calculus lectures when I was supposed to be learning to be an engineer. And the same compulsion led to me switching to English Writing as a major, not because it made sense, but because it seemed that’s what I was inclined to do.
My Past Self Weighs In
This weekend, I stumbled upon an old journal. A few entries in, my past self offered this explanation as to why I write poetry:
I write poems cos1 they’re quick
You can tell a little story
And then bang!
Like an orgasm
—June 22, 1999
1 “cos” instead of “because” was a phase I went through.
Here’s another bit I found:
What inspires me to write poetry?
The answer’s unknown—a curiosity.
Maybe it’s a love of words
Or the cleverness of a phrase.
Maybe I have nothing better to do
When I wish to fill my days.
—September 30, 1999
I included these because they show a history of me trying to answer the same question that I am trying to answer now, and for the uncanniness of their surfacing during the very weekend I planned to tackle the question.
In a Nutshell (why not eggshell?)
I can only speculate why the compulsion exists. But I believe it’s the coming together of my interests and tendencies, that when considered in whole, make poetry a likely vehicle.
First, I have a natural interest in words, both how they are used to express ideas and their etymology. I am also intrigued by ideas, and have a passion for exploring ideas to whatever end, no matter how ridiculous, and a proclivity for turning words, phrases, and ideas upside down.
I enjoy sharing my ideas, knowledge, and experience. And while I struggle with the inherent egotism of writing with the idea that my words have the merit to affect others, that is in fact one of the reasons I write. It’s one of my ways of trying to make meaningful connections with the rest of the humans.
Writing poetry is also a way for me to explore myself. There’s an inexplicable mysticism to writing and making permanent passing thoughts that amazes me (actually, stringing together words in any form of communication is an amazing feat if you think about it, especially when you consider how often you don’t think about it). Countless times I have read my poems and wondered where they came from. So it’s a way for me to tap into parts of myself that I don’t know exist, and perhaps help me to better understand the complexity of my humanity.
Finally, when it comes to writing, I am lazy. Novels seem daunting. Even the short stories I have written were a chore. Blog posts can be a bitch. So poetry has the appeal of brevity.
It may not be all encompassing, but that’s pretty much why I write poetry. And as long as I feel I have something to share, and something within myself to explore, I hope to keep writing.