Hannah Nelson is a freshman history major.
I sometimes write poems with a specific purpose in mind, but usually, I just write what I feel. Sometimes, a poem will sit with me for a few days, starting out with a thought or phrase, and the words just come to me over time, becoming fully formed by the time I write them down.
Poetry first caught my interest in middle school. I became inspired by the poetry we read in English class and the young adult authors (like Sharon Creech) I began to read in my free time. Once I started writing original poetry of my own, there was no going back — even though I had just begun putting pen to paper, I knew I wanted to be a poet.
I started recording my first poetry in a notebook I found lying around the house. I began showing some poems to my friends, and, later, a friend gifted me a new journal for my poetry. I hadn’t realized it yet, but my love for poetry was becoming a core part of my personality. When I look at poems from the junior high chapter of my life, I see similarities and some differences to how I write now. While it is a record of my thoughts and feelings, my poetry is also a record of my evolution as a person.
Now that I’ve been writing poetry for a while, I have a better sense of my writing style. I’ve always written free verse poetry or poetry that doesn’t necessarily follow any rhyme or structure, but I’m not opposed to the occasional rhyming poem, especially if it’s meant to be humorous. My earlier poems were short and simple, and mainly descriptive, or would be centered around a metaphor. I took careful note of where to place breaks in between lines, intentionally creating pauses. I still write like this, though my poems are now often longer than my earlier works, and the rhythm in them is not as consistent. My writing now may have a little more movement from beginning to end — though my conclusion usually depends on where my thoughts and feelings take me.
I view poetry primarily as a form of expression — as a way to get thoughts out of my head and put them somewhere else for a while. Sometimes, I don’t even know how I feel about something until I’ve written a poem about it. It’s my way of sorting through my feelings and working them out in a tangible way.
Over the years, I’ve learned more about myself by writing poetry. For one, I’ve realized just how much I live in my head, and how often I don’t often say what’s on my mind. I can exist in a moment without being mentally present, thinking about something else the whole time. This isn’t always a bad thing. I like having my mind as a place to myself, and I enjoy being able to think. Having poetry in my life, however, has shown me that I need to get things out of my head sometimes.
Poetry has also taught me new ways of connecting with people. Once, I was at a theater summer camp and, at the end of the week, I shared a poem with my group, detailing what the week had meant to me and the value of our collective experiences. A couple of people were moved to tears, and afterward, as we were tasked with creating a final performance, we created a performance art piece from my work, which ended up being my fondest memory from the week. This showed me the power of my words: that I could connect to shared experiences and make people feel something.
As my poems are all parts of me, sharing them can be an intimate experience. I usually only share them with close friends, but I find that when I do share them, it creates a meaningful experience. I feel not only rewarded for the level of comfort I had with the person but also like they’ve gotten to know me a little more, which can be a hard thing for me to do otherwise.
Poetry has helped me find my voice and given me a break from my internal monologue now and then. As an introvert who keeps a lot of my thoughts to myself, poetry is an important lesson on the amazing things that can happen when I take the time to express my thoughts, whether it be in my private notebook, for a close friend, or even for an audience.
For anyone thinking about starting to write poetry, my first piece of advice is to not overthink it too much. Don’t worry about whether what you write will be any good. The power of poetry, to me, is expressing your emotions in a beautiful way. If you write what you feel, this will happen, because the human experience itself is an interesting thing. There’s a beauty in being able to capture that, in any art form. Write what you want to write about, and play around with what styles, phrasing, and combinations of words sound good to you, and you’ll find your style over time.
A few samples/excerpts that could be used as a graphic, whichever ones work:
I want to just wrap myself around you
Until you’re not aware of anything else
I wish I could just absorb all of your pain
All of it
So you wouldn’t have to feel it anymore
Just absorb it like a sponge
And maybe I could wring myself out later
And be rid of it still
In a way you can’t because it’s yours
And if I couldn’t be rid of it that’s okay
Because then you wouldn’t have it anymore
It’s not like here, where everything is plopped into place
A world designated exactly for each
And nothing seems permanent,
All the buildings standing straight up
As if they’re trying to expand
And trying to prove they belong
The many decisions
Swarm around me
They are mosquitos
That no matter how many times I swat them away with the idea of “later”
They land and bite to claim
“I am still here”
All these unintended consequences
From something so simple
And unconscious as a smile
The words have weight
They carry with them the heft of reality
And plenty of evidence of the fact
Though they are quite dusty