Why I Am A Poet
Writing in any genre is rewarding. Articles are gratifying because many readers can readily relate to them. Composing essays is an exercise in form and the development of an idea; they are useful and effective writing exercises. Fiction is driven by raw creativity and imagination, with a (sometimes daunting) overlay of craft.
Poetry, though, is different. My poems are not written, nor are they crafted. Rather, they bubble up inside me like the mysterious waters of a natural spring. I frankly don’t know where they come from; as I said, I certainly don’t write them in the academic sense. Poetry is a journey into self-knowledge, and it is not for the faint of heart. No worthwhile journey ever is.
I have been a poet all my life, by which I mean for as long as I can remember. Was I composing poems in my crib? Maybe, but I imagine if I were cerebral enough at that age to create poetry, I would have been cerebral enough to remember it. At the age of ten, though, I experienced my first foray into publishing when a local newspaper featured a poem of mine. That was during my Emily Dickinson period, and although I still admire her poetry immensely, I have added Dorianne Laux, Stanley Kunitz, David Whyte, Mary Oliver, and a whole litany of astonishing contemporary poets to my list of favorites. They speak their truth, and what I find remarkable is that when I read their truth, it becomes my truth. However this is done, it is a curious kind of alchemy that is hard to describe but easy to recognize when it happens.
I recently inherited my mother’s collection of poetry books. I’m sure I can credit her with my early exposure to, and my resultant love for, poetry. There were times in my life when I would have found it difficult to admit my mother deserved credit for anything, but her recent death has made that easier. Posthumously, even hard people soften in our memories and become forgivable. Or more easily forgivable, at least. Besides, losing someone just puts things in perspective.
The photo at the the top of this page features my mother’s poetry books, at home now on the bookcase in my study. The quote is from Ray Bradbury who, like my mother, has recently left us. It is an excerpt from his book Zen in the Art of Writing. I have always tried to live by this credo: to read poetry every day. I believe we should read what we want to write. It just sifts into our consciousness somehow – there’s that alchemy at work again. We internalize the cadence, the language, all of it. I want to write poetry, so I read poetry. Every day. It just works.
In her book Top of My Lungs, Natalie Goldberg (writing guru, poet, and artist extraordinaire) writes about “how poetry saved [her] life.” Has it saved mine? I’m not sure, but it has definitely come close a couple of times. If you write poetry, you know. It’s powerful stuff.
I created this website as an extension of my commitment to writing, my lifeline, whatever genre I’m currently working in. Jenniferphelps.net is intended to be a hub for all my writing: my beloved poetry; my fledgling “online notebook,” www.nakednotebook.net (not a blog); and my more recent (than age ten) adventures in publishing. My hope is that you will explore, enjoy, and share if you find the content worthy. Thank you for visiting!
© 2013 by Jennifer Phelps