Poems From the Left – How Writers Change

I used to write a lot of poetry.  In my senior year of college, I wrote a poem every night.  At one time, I had over a thousand poems.  Most have found their way into a landfill through various episodes of spring cleaning.  It was my dream to become a poet.  But the year I graduated, my number one audience, my grandmother, died.  With no audience, there was no reason to write.  Life intervened, stuff happened and the poetry went by the wayside.  I did a few poems over the years, but you could count them on one hand.  People say you should not write for an audience but for yourself, but that is not how it works for me.  Poetry is meant to communicate, and when no  one is listening, it is hard for me to write.  When I saw the poetry here on Kos, I decided to pick up writing again.  Then ulookarmless and Asterkitty said they wanted to start a poetry community.  You have no idea how excited I was.  They are both inspiring, and the idea got my creative juices started.

The poems below are a progression of my poetry, as well as a bit of insight on how I come up with the poems.   The first poem was written about thirty seven years ago, the second was about ten years ago.  The third was originally written about thirty seven years ago but I refactored it last November.  Finally, the last one was written about two weeks ago.  You can see how I have changed or not changed over the years.

I begin with a poem I wrote once about words.

For words to do what they do best
They cannot state the unexpressed
If language gives the deepest thought
Its greatest part remains untaught
If dreams are spoken, not implied
You can be sure the speaker lied
Or he has been some gift denied
For every human heart is wrought
Through finding what no other sought

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Because of the aforesaid difficulty in conveying whole concepts in words, I often look for something everybody can relate to and compare with that.  Below is a simile (uses like or as) that compares me to the earth as it was forming:

Mother Earth
Ah, mother Earth I see you in your youth so like me
Passion burning, hot, now spewing as ash
Spraying skyward, landing randomly,
Now slowly flowing as lava burning forests
Baking rock, shaking and trembling, now quaking
Creating, forming, thrusting, squeezing
The ranges, the valleys, formed in untouched desire

Now as mid-age mothers
Dependable, strong, quiet snow-capped peaks
Chortling brooks, waves kissing the beach as children
Wise whispering breezes over gentle prairie
Serene to all who look and I wonder
Whether you, like me, in your core
Still seethe?

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Sometimes I use what everybody can relate to and try to blend the two so you can’t tell where one stops and the other begins.  I don’t use a comparison but personify the relationship, as in a metaphor.  Below is a poem I have previously diaried about battered women as merged with a violent storm:

I saw the sun come up this morning
I saw the sun come up this morning
And found myself wishing
That things were simple and easy so
Like they used to be
I watched the early light tint the clouds
As litter scattered across the skies
Leaves wrenched from branches thrown randomly on the lawn
Papers, a broken glass hurled around my room
I still felt the storm of last night
The house shaking in the wind’s fury
And in the rage in your voice
The slapping of rain on the window
And your hand against my face
The branch from the spruce beat the roof
While your fists beat my shoulders and arms
And an unknown object hit the outside wall
As I hit the dresser and fell
The thunder did not quite drown out
The slamming of your car door or the tires raking the gravel
As you drove away
I watched the fire-orange-that –hurt-my-eyes slip the skyline
Illuminating the red blotches on my face as reminders of your anger
And Jesus knew I ached and throbbed with all your hurts and empty cups, and missed (oh, god) I missed what used to be
And then the all over blue washed the sky
Saying, hoity-toity like, it always goes this way and drops of water
Don’t care if it’s streets or cheeks they spatter

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2010

Sometimes I take a vision or dream and try to describe it.  I did that in the poem I wrote to the blessed mother.  It is too long to include this week, so this poem will be presented another week.

Sometimes, I just rant, as here:

Not about the babies
It’s not about the babies
Although they are compelling
With their tiny fingers
And curling toes
And soft cooing voices

If it was about the babies
They would care what happened
Once they took that first breath
Or at least past
The doctor’s slap and that first cry

If it was about the babies
It would also be about the children
Hungry or homeless or cold or beaten
Until they couldn’t sit
Because their parents were annoyed

If it was about the babies
It would be about the mothers
Carrying those precious souls,
About keeping mothers well
And safe and fed

If it was about the babies
Someone would ask the unaskable question
Is it really less kind to terminate life in the womb
Than to make a child grow up

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Whatever vehicle you use to write your poem, what is important is to make what you are seeing or feeling available to the reader.  Rather than telling the reader how to feel, you tell him/her what is, and let him/her (I hate this correctness stuff) decide how to feel.  In other posts, I discuss use of form to help tell the story, the advantages of form and the disadvantages, and various forms.