I am a huge fan of poetry. I am not a poet.
In writing prose, the trick is always to show what’s happening, both inside and out of the characters, rather than telling what is happening. Immersing the reader in the characters’ thoughts, actions, and surroundings lets them feel as if they are right there on the page. It makes the worlds and words real.
In the prose I write, there is always a next moment. Even after, “The End,” there is an assumption of more moments that follow, left undocumented.
My favorite poetry is more immediate. ‘Here are the words of this single experience. That is all.’
The details selected must resound with the reader, like the vibrations of a tuning fork, first loud and strong, then fading until only an echo of the sound remains in you. The words are chosen, carefully, to capture the essence of each moment, plucked in your memory like the strings of a harp.
Poetry provides a fun-house mirror that lets you see yourself through the words of the poet. Each time you read a passage, it reaches deeper inside your psyche, sometimes with greater clarity, sometimes less. Some passages are as obvious as a painting complete with a plaque explaining what you see. Some are thick with meaning, pulling at your mind as you slog through each word and still requiring you to go back and re-read them to recover the reflections of yourself that you missed the first or fiftieth time.
And then there are those images, those phrases and words that hit a harmonic chord with your soul, that make you remember yourself and leave you breathing, “I know this…” Great poetry accesses those fathomless depths, changing each time you read it to reflect back who you are in this one moment, and the next.