Need a quick warmup to open the pathways to creativity? My new favorite is a smartphone app called Instant Poetry. Simply select a theme, such as Love, Sadness, or Passionate, and words pop to your screen. Drag them around with your finger to form pleasing phrase combos, or delete them altogether if they’re not working for you. Request additional words by touching the plus symbol, or create your own custom words with a double tap. Super simple to change fonts or add your own photos as backgrounds.
Instant Poetry, Instant Poetry, why do I love thee? Let me count the reasons. This app allows me a little foreplay before I finally get down to the business of real writing – a warmup, so to speak. It creates small pauses in a cluttered day. It encourages me to procrastinate my latest project, as if I need encouragement to procrastinate. It engages me while I wait on my Words with Friends partner to make his move.
But there is a deeper question here. Why am I so drawn to poetry in general? Why, when I walk into bookstores, do books of poems leap from the shelf into my hands? At two writing conferences attended over the course of last year, I found myself in poetry workshops. Why do I download free online course material that I don’t have time to read from Purdue University with such titles as “Pattern and Variation in Poetry?”
I don’t do poetry. It’s not practical. It’s self-indulgent. It does nothing to solve the problems of the world. It’s hard enough to make money from writing anything, but there is absolutely none to be made from writing poetry. But still, I’m drawn to the genre. The sheer beauty of the stringing together of certain words by an accomplished poet can knock the wind out of me. I love the way lyrical words taste. I love the way they can penetrate my brain, seep into crevices, sparking connections among the billions of neurons I didn’t realize were lingering there.
I think I’ve found an answer regarding my pull to poetry. An explanation for why I’ve hung onto a set of Rod McKuen’s books bought as a teen. I’m studying the personal essay. This is the genre I practice the most, the one I’d like to find success with. What I’m learning is that the best of essays work as lyrically as poems do. They use cadence, rhythm, repetition, images, and pattern to retrieve experience and make discoveries. Just like their cousin, the poem, personal essays have the capability to leave one stunned with sudden enlightenment, with new understanding.
The Instant Poem now residing on my iPhone was written by the character in the novel I’m working on, tentatively called The Silent Wife. She is finding her voice and wants to tell her story by weaving in the bad poetry she’s written over the course of her life. I’m toying with the idea of letting her do it. See, sometimes work is disguised as play.