I played with song-writing, too, and sang my made-up songs of praise and worship at the top of my lungs while walking to my grandma’s house two blocks away. Of course, they rhymed; sort of.
I admire poets and the poetry they write to enrich our lives. I’ve enjoyed listening to poets read their work and have learned from hearing them read their own work that there is a special way to read poetry, in addition to the special ways of writing it. It can be as beautiful as music. It’s not read like prose; it has a different rhythm, different inflection, almost without punctuation, it seems.
One particularly gifted poet from here in the mountains, was Kathryn Stripling Byers, who was once poet laureate in our state. Kay Byers held many awards and recognitions for her work, and had several books of poetry published. She died earlier this year. Last Sunday at a lovely reception in her honor, it was obvious that what people loved about her the most was how she encouraged others, her students, young and old, newbie poets, and writers in general. I had only met her in person a few times with others, though I admired her work. My impression of her whenever I saw her, was that she was more interested in the work of others than in talking about her own. She had great humility. It seemed her greatest joy was seeing others succeed. Several of the guests were accomplished poets because of their teacher, Kathryn Byers. Many of her works were read at the reception, one was even put to music. She left the literary world a legacy. For prose writers like me, her work is almost other-worldly; something for us to enjoy even though we can’t ever hope to write or read it so beautifully.
I’m definitely not a poet, but my latest book, Spirit the Tiny White Reindeer, is a picture book in rhyme. It was fun to write, and I think children will have fun hearing it, over and over, until they can say the rhyme themselves, sing-songy in child-sized voices.
I’ve written some other things that are called poems, though they are nothing like what Kathryn Byers wrote. They were written while I was driving, alone, speaking aloud, stringing together metaphors and tossing about adjectives as if I had a trunk filled with them. They sounded good, and the more I recited it, polished it, the better it sounded. But by the time I got it on paper, it was flat. It’s prose. Alas, I’m not a poet.
I’m thinking of taking a poetry class, because reading poetry helps me write. When I hit a wall in my writing and walk away from it for a bit, it helps if I read poetry. When I teach writing and I’m asked what to do for “writer’s block,” my response is, “Read some good poetry.”