Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Poet in ME?

I sometimes refer to myself as an ex-poet. I've had some people, mostly poets, give me strange looks and say that's not possible. Once you become a poet, you start thinking like a poet, and you can never think differently.

And I guess that's true. I have never stopped looking at the world differently than the average person. I still see the beauty in everything. I guess the difference is, I'm directing those thoughts into different places now. Instead of writing a detailed, descriptive poem about a young boy and his grandma riding a city bus, I work it into a picture book. I tend to focus my attention more on children than adults. I also tend to focus on the outside world, not inside my own head. My poems tend to be self-reflective, but my picture books and novels examine the larger picture. Of course, I still use my own experiences when I write for kids, but they are mixed with things I've seen or heard kids do while out and about in the "real world."

I wonder sometimes if my lack of poetic moments lately is because I'm not living enough. I'm not out doing things and experiencing the world as much as I would like. I spend most of my time teaching or writing.

When I talk about why I pushed poetry aside, a few reasons keep creeping up:
  • The need to be someone other than "me" in my work. Persona poems couldn't do it. People still thought I was being me.
  • The inability to please myself and an audience at the same time. The audience at that point was mainly professors and other students.
  • The feeling of being confined in twelve or so lines. It's odd, I used to never be able to write poems longer than fifteen lines. Now, I can't seem to get away from writing whole novels worth of stuff. It's liberating.
  • The realization that I probably will never make money off of, or even publish, a book of poetry. Sad as it is, it's true. Publishing poetry is one of the hardest things to do, and if I couldn't do it "right" then I wasn't going to do it.
  • The feeling that I needed to fit a "mold." Poets are picky. As a poetry student, I was told to follow all kinds of unwritten, contradictory rules. It was frustrating, and it sucked creativity out of me. Writing for kids is much more freeing. Just think of all the areas you can experiment with: non-fiction, picture books, rebus stories, poetry, middle grade fiction, YA novels, chick lit, fantasy, povels, the list goes on and on.

So the fact that I haven't finished a poem in over year doesn't really scare me. That I'm moving beyond 6+ years of doing the same thing every day excites me.


Simon Cook said...

Some interesting observations here thanks - I'm an amateur poet and never really expect to get published - it's interesting to see the views of a real poet actually mirror my own to a certain extent.

Janet, said...

I've written poetry for many years. But I'm not into the poetry where I have to read it 2 or 3 times to get the meaning of it. I don't fit into today's world of free verse. I like the old fashioned rhyming poetry, I find my poems are more geared toward children, which is understandable, I guess, since I love to write picture books.

Dorothy Massey said...

I enjoyed reading Crystalee's interview very much. I've always enjoyed writing, but, like Crystalee, find writing for children most rewarding. Dorothy Massey

Laurie said...

You know me so well that I could probably leave this box blank and you'd fill it in with something or other I'd say, but (just in case) I'll write my comment out.

I think you should do whatever makes you happy. If writing poetry makes you happy, do it. If drawing nudes in crayon makes you happy, do it. If writing picture books for children makes you happy - wait - you're already doing it :-) :-) cool.

I want you to be happy 'cause you are so nice.

Crystalee said...

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to read my thoughts!

Simon, I am flattered you consider me a real poet. ;-)