I’m Not a Poet & I Know It

The oddest thing happened this week. I was reading an essay on flash fiction in Rose Metal Press’s Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction when I was hit with the sudden urge to write a poem about the smell of creosote. I resisted the urge at first–the time was getting on to midnight–but I quickly gave in to it and roughed out a few stanzas. Over the next several nights, I fiddled with it, coming to a version I was satisfied with last night.

I am a fiction-writer. I understand the anatomy and physiology of fiction: the bones of structure, the musculature of scenes, the connective tissue of leitmotif, the beating heart of character.

I am not a poet. The anatomy and physiology of poetry are pretty much the four humors of medieval physic to me. Meter and rhyme, stanza and line break must all be kept in balance somehow for the poem to be thriving and robust, but it is definitely a hit-or-miss affair. Is the poem choleric? Put some leeches on it. Jaundiced with yellow bile? Maybe an emetic will effect a cure, but take care not to kill the poor creature.

So what keeps sending me back to poetry when narrative fiction is my natural means of expression? I’ve known for some time that I will turn to poetry to write about my family; however, that’s not a sufficient explanation because much of my fiction has family relationships as its starting point.

It wasn’t until I read the opening of Sherrie Flick’s “Flash in a Pan: Writing Outside of Time’s Boundaries” that the reason I am sometimes driven to poetry became clear. Fiction is tied to time, time and causality; poetry doesn’t need to be. Poetry can be pure emotion–which brings me to T.S Eliot’s “objective correlative”:

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked (Eliot).

Now that is the smell of creosote!

Work Cited

Eliot, Thomas Sterns. Hamlet and His Problems to The Sacred Weed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921. Accessed April 16, 2017. http://ww.bartleby.com/200/sw9.html.

22 thoughts on “I’m Not a Poet & I Know It

  1. You know Liz I often feel that anything in life binds you takes away the fun of living. I’m not much into rules but yes, somebody did tell me that in poetry we need to adhere to so many rules. Nonetheless I do feel strongly that writing or poetry is only about emotional connect and if that happens, there you are!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comments, Sonia. I think of poetry not so much as having rules (although formal poetry does, of course) but more of techniques–and I wish I were more fluent in these techniques. But, as you rightly point out, it’s the emotional connection that counts in poetry, regardless of how it happens.


          1. Oh, yes. Well, I was mostly writing in English…The poetry and this teacher would keep asking me to come out with my collection. He had some great tips to share as well. Suggested a few publishers too. And it went on for a long time. Then one day he read my poetry in Hindi. And it was such a u turn. He told me to forget all about writing in English and should prepare myself for getting the hindi poems published. Lol…I found it funny though. But yes, that’s what gave me the idea about a bilingual poetry book.

            Liked by 1 person

Thank you for stopping by. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.