Ebb and Flow: on reading to write, and poetry

All writers learn by reading to write. It’s study journeying into the deep art of the beast. The more we read, the more we develop style, learn from the craft of those who went before us. Through reading we stretch our imaginations to grasp the visual experience of being a reader. We cannot write unless we understand the needs and responses of the reader’s psyche.

We are mirror creators of the page, and receivers of these images, the narrative flow. The tidal energy of pulsing creativity creates the need to be washed over frequently with inspiration. We learn how to create impact in delivering the images with resonance as we go. We excite our own imaginations through contact with the work of others, touched by their beauty and inspired to expand our own.

But I’m only just learning that being a writer and being a poet may be separate disciplines. Until very recently I assumed that both were one, poetry being a branch of writing.

My new revelation has begun with open mic poetry nights, and I have written about the experience of being a songbird to an audience. It is both an uncomfortable and exciting experience. But I have often wondered at how I find it hard to memorise poems or perform them and assumed that this didn’t matter too much because reading the poem from notes is just as good because at least I’ve stood up and presented myself, and anyway, it’s the poem that counts?

Somehow that does not ring true, it does matter.

I’ve started new and wonderful study into oral tradition and myth. Through this study I enter a forest where there is a crossroads and two paths: one path is as a writer and one a poet. For this moment I hesitate, though I know which I will take it is a moment of breath with all of the waters of time bearing down nudging me forwards. All that I know and understand is dancing ahead on the path of the writer. The path of the poet is dark under the canopy of the trees and I can hardly see the shadows moving within. To enter this path is difficult because who knows if it is safe to enter or not, what may be within the darkness?

Only those who have been this way before, and they are long gone, their poems and teachings left as breadcrumbs through the undergrowth.

I suppose that the paths may later converge at many points, there will be many crossroads.

For now I continue to read and write to stimulate my imagination, but I study and learn anew, and remember beyond myself into the poets and bards of the past perhaps to activate my mind as a tool, and not my pen to create poems, and to aspire to stand up and deliver a performance rather than a reading. There are layers of learning and meaning here, a journey to tread that may be long, so simple to say. How far I reach back and how deep I go along the forest path is for me to discover what price I am willing to pay.

All I know is that it will take an investment of time, further study and thinking. Not always, but sometimes at my laptop, and probably sometimes outdoors, or groping to find my way in darkness.


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