Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Poetry Challenge

I was an English major, belonged to an off-campus poetry group, and wrote a poem nightly for the first few years after graduation. I am not sure when I stopped. All I know is that I have written only a handful of poems in recent years.

This month I have been participating in a poetry challenge. Each day the moderator gives us our topic or form, and we are to create a poem and post it.

My first surprise was how much emotion I had bottled up. I wrote my first poem and cried. Since then I have had many mornings of releasing long pent up feelings.

My Tai Chi friend Elizabeth regularly participates in poetry slams, unfortunately I only see her briefly when her class ends and Liuhebafa begins. For the first two weeks of the month I couldn’t connect with her to tell her about the challenge. As I waved my hand weakly in her direction, I told a number of other women about the challenge. What surprised me was how interested they were. I hadn’t expected that at all.

Poetry feels so new to me. I supposed it is another example of “Beginner’s Mind.” One of the many things I am enjoying is how my attention has been changing. I pay more attention to small sensory experiences. I notice a squirrel, the details of a cup, the juxtaposition of objects in the lawn. I have been reading novels by Christopher Fowler lately and am amazed how small details draw me into his stories. The same technique is true for poetry writing.

I think we all need something like the poetry challenge. Too often we feel impotent in our lives. The latest news story is the Swine Flu Pandemic. We can feel totally powerless. “Wash your hands.” Yea, right. I literally had someone sneeze in my face earlier this winter. But when I wrote my first Sestina this morning, I felt powerful. Maybe I only felt that way for an hour, but I felt it. I am sure my immune system, my emotions, and my fight or flight reflex felt that too. I will miss the challenge once the month ends.

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