What is POETRY?

by Charles Ghigna

In order to grow as a writer, you’ve got to be willing to risk it all each time you sit down to write. You’ve got to be open and brave and curious. Whenever I’m asked, “When did you become a poet?” I’m always tempted to ask, “When did you stop?” When did you stop taking risks?
We’re all born poets. We all enjoy the sounds of language. Every new parent knows that. We’re all born with the need to “sound our barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world” as Whitman would have it.
Poetry is a natural part of our lives. It’s not just something we have to memorize and recite in front of the class. Losing ourselves in a poem is one of the best ways of finding out who we are. The act of writing brings us to that point of discovery, of discovering on the page something we didn’t know we knew until we wrote it.
Don’t let reality cloud your imagination. Look up at the sky and find once again those long-tailed dragons and sailing ships. Wake up to the world as though you are seeing it each day for the first time. Find the wonder. Question the way things are. Imagine new choices. Write from the child in you.
Style isn’t how you write. It’s how you do not write like anyone else. You don’t need a degree to be a writer. It doesn’t take teachers or textbooks to show you how to write. One learns how to write by writing. There is no other way.
“Every morning, we do something different with a poem: introduce the poem, read it once through, then let the students echo-read with [the teacher], talk about meaning, do choral reading, notice contractions, rhyming words, word patterns, ‘words in words’, students talk about ideas for illustrating the poem and can share it with others [outside of the classroom]”

(Hadaway, Vardell & Young, 2001)


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