I am not a poet. Sometimes, I wish I could be. Poets have a way of making you feel things. This semester, side by side with my workshop, I’ve been taking a poetry seminar with people who have inspired me more than all the submissions to workshop have, combined – and trust me, that’s saying something. My fellow Elaine Equi classmates dazzle with brilliance – in the cliffs created by their line breaks, the staccato of their stanzas, in the beats that beat in the spaces they carefully place between words. They made me appreciate poetry as painting, poetry as imagination, poetry as music, poetry as the truth behind the phrase “read between the lines”. They taught me that you can create that in-between space. I have discovered the scalpel with which poets write, watched them slice into paper and pare off thin scraps to carve a story underneath their words. What they leave behind is poignant and sharp and speaks with a voice familiar to stories, but starkly different.
I want to know how the brain must tick to know which words, when paired together or kept apart, will zip straight through muscle and bone to touch heart.
I didn’t think it was a skill I could capture. Don’t get me wrong – fiction can be beautiful. It can be evocative. But like everything else in life writing lives within boundaries of genre, and a fiction writer cannot also call her stories poetry. Or so I thought. What this class has been accomplishing is the breaking of those limitations, those walls we have placed in art – between poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction. It has been all-accepting, a fact that Yoko Ono would be proud of. It has made me understand that when one says that there is a story that must be told, that story can take the form of anything and everything at once.
Why write with restrictions? Why limit creativity? Especially when any rules we follow are ones we have written for ourselves? I can’t say I’ve found another one of Adam’s ribs to fashion into something as special as woman, but I hope that by understanding that there are no barriers I will be able to better tell the stories I need to tell and create art that breathes as life.