I’m an English Creative Writing major, which means I get to do all kinds of great stuff like study plot structures, character development, and unique ways of saying everyday things. It also means I get to take a class known as Poetry Workshop.
I happen to love poetry, especially poems by Shakespeare, Dickenson, Frost, and a lot of the other “classic” works. It’s just so romantic, and by that I mean the inspired-by-nature, fancy language, thought-provoking kind of romantic. Not the grill-me-a-steak and wash-my-car kind of romantic (Hey, to each her own).
But I also love how studying poetry can improve your writing in general. I’m kind of obsessed with alliteration and imagery and metaphor, so I love incorporating that into my work. When I study and write poetry, I’m able to practice describing things in succinct, yet powerful ways.
For example, why would you say “Girl, you’ve got some great hair,” when you could go all Song of Solomon and say, “Thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead” (Song of Solomon 4:1, KJV).
Okay, maybe not, but you get what I’m saying, right? And if you’re anything like me, you also get a really interesting mental image of a bunch of shaggy rams running down a hill. See? Powerful stuff.
Even mighty men of the Bible like King Solomon and David knew how to use these techniques. Some of the Psalms are beautiful. Can’t you just picture a rugged, tan guy sitting under a tree, overlooking a flock of sheep, strumming his harp, and singing psalms of praise to God? *Swoon*
Actually, I was talking about the psalms themselves, but I think I’ve made my point.
All of that is great, but as it turns out, Poetry Workshop is all about writing modern poetry. Perhaps this can be attributed to limited exposure, but I haven’t found many poems describing a girl’s hair. Or goats either, for that matter.
With every poem I write, I try to pen words that glorify God and show what I value in life. Even if I don’t directly mention God, it’s my hope that people can see my faith reflected in my words. I write a lot of poems about nature, which can be cliché, but a sandy seashore at sunrise (Aha, alliteration!) reminds me of God’s majesty. Just like a carefree poem about my little sister reminds me of how God delights in us and wants us to have a childlike faith.
All of that means I don’t write a bunch of heavy, depressing stuff. That also means there aren’t many deep, hidden meanings in my poetry. I’m all for thought-provoking, but not when it makes me squirm. Believe me, I understand the power emotion-laden words can have, but if I want something disturbing, I can just turn on the six o’clock news, you know?
I’m six weeks in to the semester, and I’m quickly learning poetry doesn’t come naturally for me. Poems written in my journal that stay between God and me? Sure, those just kind of flow from my heart. But weekly submissions for the rest of the class to critique? That adds a little pressure.
But it also adds an opportunity. An opportunity to, hopefully, share the love of Jesus through what I write. I’ll admit I get frustrated with myself when I submit a poem, then receive more critique than positive remarks in workshop. But then, those critiques are what push me to be a better poet. They push me to reflect on my work and say, “How can I improve my writing so I can demonstrate this message in a more powerful way?”
That’s the desire of my heart, really. And I know that if I’m fully seeking to glorify the Lord, all that matters is that I’m giving it my best. If I do that, He will take care of the rest.
I’m off to go write a sonnet for workshop. It’ll be a learning experience, for sure!
“My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.”
– Psalm 41:1 (NIV)