~by Amanda Smith
I have always had a gut feeling that writing poetry is a precursor to writing well. Only recently, while preparing a poetry workshop for middle school students, did I realize how strongly I believe in the poetry connection.
During my kids’ baby and toddler years, I didn’t have the strength, time, or mental capacity (Mommy brain, anyone?) to write long pieces. I pushed writing to the very outer circle of my priorities, but somewhere in my youngest’s second year the need to write wiggled its way right into the center of my being. I jotted down ideas, struggles, joys, and observations in free verse. As I played with words, clapped rhythms, and rearranged sentences, within me, something awoke again. And it grew. It grew into picture books, and early readers, and novels.
Even all these years and manuscripts later, the poetry that called me from my writer’s slumber is still relevant. Because what we learn in writing and studying poetry, translates to every kind of writing.
What do we gain when we write poetry?
I spent a big part of Monday writing limericks. I can’t remember when last I had so much fun. The silliness of it all, within the seriousness of the form. The absolute thrill of finding just the right rhyming words to deliver that guffaw in the last line. Playfulness unlocking imagination and humor. Play, play, play.
South African poet Carina Stander challenged herself in high school to write a new poem every second Sunday. She still does that. Ame Dyckman regularly tweets haiku-like observations. Kate DiCamillo often posts lyrical reflections on social media. Jane Yolen starts every work day by writing a poem. Considering their careers, I have to believe they're onto something. We need to shake this pressure that everything we write has to be for the book, or go in the book.
Will you explore the poetry connection with me? I’m challenging myself to produce a poem a week. Come join me. Our play has purpose.
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