Invented words

At least it’s an affordable luxury, this craft of poetry. Catch a phrase loitering around the alley of your mind, and find a place to keep it. Pretty phrases are as plentiful as the red-gold leaves turning the road into a bed of glowing embers.

I’m pretty sure I spend more on my poetry practice than I do on paint, paper and brushes, though. It’s a good thing that poets coin words and phrases to fill our need, so we don’t break our new-book budgets too much. But I wish more people knew that there are ways that poetry creates a vast wealth — ways that go relatively unnoticed.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into a list of platitudes about the value or usefulness of poetry here. I just want to say, don’t waste it.

Since I talked about lyric form in my last post, I have to say something about narrative and dramatic forms in this one. I think of lyric and dramatic poems as two sides of the same coin. The dramatic poem, which is spoken by a character — sometimes an invented one, sometimes a real person, or sometimes even a group of people — can be framed in the same ways that lyric can, and by doing so creates a sense of multiple selves within a single voice, or the echo of many voices in that single voice.

Like the many leaves still in the trees, rustling and shushing over the sound of the gas leaf-blower in my neighbor’s yard, the voice(s) in a dramatic poem can remind us of our source and purpose, which is, of course, helpful when you’re irritated by the tremendous din of everyday life.

I have used Dean Rader’s poetry collection Self-Portrait as Wikipedia Entry in my creative writing class a few times, mostly because I liked the way he showcases different ways in which poetry can cleverly traverse the continuum between lyric and dramatic. In this video he reads one of his Frog and Toad poems, which riff on the popular children’s book series characters.

For me, a poem is the most immersive sort of arts experience. Much more than a concert or museum or Broadway musical or interactive “painting” or virtual reality. I’m here with myself and the poet’s invented words; I’m here with myself and their invented characters; I’m here with myself and the invented situation, the internal weather; I’m here with myself and my loved ones inside the poem’s perimeter; I’m here with myself and the language stitched into new clothes for my mind’s characters; I’m here with myself and the dreams I didn’t know I had.

But it’s really just some words, spoken or written, and given. That’s the crucial bit: given.

One thought on “Invented words

  1. You Know Who You Are
    Steven Swank 15 Oct. 2022

    Among the many there is one heart fabric,
    formed in an instant or million of years
    like stones of fossils imprinted with tears.

    We find in sharing, our community.
    I see in you what I most hope to express,
    you brighten the world and consciousness.

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