I’ve been going through one of my phases of, ‘Who am I kidding? I’m a terribly bad poet!’ I’m told it happens to all of us. My present phase was initially triggered by seeing the movie Camino, which I loved. When someone asked me about it, I began by saying, ‘It was complex.’ It was, and that was one of the things I loved about it. It dealt with a complex situation and didn’t attempt to over-simplify, but to lay out all the complexities for our view. This interested me. For years now I have been aiming for simplicity in my poetry, training myself by practisng haiku and tanka. I realised I’d like to get back to some complexity now.
Then I began looking through this year’s work with the idea of putting together a little collection for xmas presents to family and friends. I was shocked to see how prosey my language has often become. That is not necessarily a side-effect of striving for simplicity, clarity and accessibility — but in my case it’s obviously a danger I have to watch out for. Time for the wheel to turn! I don’t want obscurity, would still like to be clear and accessible, but just ... well ... not so straightforward as to risk dullness and banality.
As I don’t happen to have any complex ideas burning for expression, I decided I’d better try for complexity of form. I find this also leads to heightened language. Restrictions can act as a sort of crucible! If I do enough experimenting with form, perhaps that language will extend to any free verse I might be inspired to create meanwhile.
It’s not an absolutely new thing for me. I have always played with form, whilst preferring free verse and using that most of the time. Now I’m going to focus mainly on form for a while. I don’t know how long — until I get sick of it, I suppose. I’m sure there’ll be some free verse as well, now and then.
The prompts at the wonderful dVerse poetry community are helpful. Some are for specific forms, others suggest particular approaches and techniques which I can use to the same end. I think particularly of a recent prompt on the technique of conflation. The responses to these prompts indicate that there are plenty of others out there who are interested in playing with form, not just me. Some are beginners; some are very accomplished poets indeed. Many of the participants also frequent the (similar) Poets United and imaginary garden with real toads sites.
I was surprised, then, on suggesting to the Free Verse Weekends group on facebook that we might start another group for formal verse, to discover that it is evidently not an activity the excellent poets there usually engage in. (Except for haiku and tanka; many of those same poets are in the facebook Haiku on Friday and Tanka on Tuesday groups as well.) Several expressed themselves willing to give form a go, but I was more looking to see if there was an existing need/desire. Apparently not. So I’ll just continue to play at dVerse etc.