It’s strange, I’ve been writing lyrics and poetry for so long, and yet, when asked to explain it, I can’t. I mean, sure I can explain the mechanics of poetry: how its put together, but how do you go from rhythm and rhyme to something that actually touches the soul? How do I do it? How does anyone?
How do you go from 14 lines in iambic pentameter, three quatrains and a couplet with a rhyming scheme of abab cdcd efef gg to… something like: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
It was then I realized: I really don’t know how I do what I do.
When I write poetry, I usually have a topic in mind, a topic and one or two lines that strike a chord inside my heart: something I can’t quantify. It just ‘feels right.’
It sends a chill up my spine, and I feel… moved. I grab a pen, or rush to my computer and fight to get the words down before I forget the lines, and it grows from there.
One poem, published here, was the result of a friend’s loss, and oddly my need for it came not too long after. The words are as true now as they were when I first wrote them. That is one of the important things about poems to me: they have to endure.
The first poem I ever wrote (that was even vaguely worth remembering) consisted of four lines:
Life is like a melody
Mine was written in a minor key
Won’t someone come
And modulate for me.
Obviously nothing to write home about. It’s a cute little ditty, nothing more. There is no mystery no soul striking truth, nothing memorable.
Compare that to one of my favorite Middle English poems (or what survives of it)
Westron wind, when will thou blow?
The small rain down can come.
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.
There are different versions/translations of this poem, but it always sends a shiver up my spine, and memorable? Look at how long it has survived.
Part of why it works and is so haunting is because it speaks of longing, with no solution and, the voice behind the poem is a mystery: it is a landsman, during a drought or maybe a becalmed sailor?
You read it and you feel something. Those four lines have soul and truth behind them: they strike a chord in our psyche.
When you write poetry, that’s what you’re looking for: that spark; a universal truth that strikes a chord and sends a shiver up your spine.
It is that ‘shiver’ I’ll be exploring over the next few weeks as I try and quantify what I do.
Please join me as I try and explain what I do, when the only way I can express my true feelings is in poetry and lyrics.