To start, here’s a prose poem inspired by a late night drive past fields of wind turbines. If you haven’t seen them, picture a landscape of red lights flashing in unison (or slightly out of unison) to alert airplanes to their tall presence. It is eerie.
Tilting at Windmills
Red lights blinking, eyes accusing from dark fields, with syncopated rhythm, they’re daring me to catch them off the beat. Mesmerized, chastised, I’m alone against dozens in this tug of war pulling my eyes from the road. The car draws close to pass an outsized monster, so regal, shining white in its green field by day, malicious spy by night. Its flashing gaze follows me; I challenge it back, to crack its pulse. I don’t remember flinching but it shines, intermittent, in my rearview mirror, triumphant. Haunted by lights in the dark, I drive on. I drive on to escape, to be safe, to see my truth. They mock my heartbeat. They mock my journey. They wake my ire, light fire in my heart. I cling to the road as it rises to show no end to synchronized armies – the horizon blinking, winking, spurring me to swerve. I follow the curve as it turns away from the fields, sinking down to the lake, and I plunge into black.
I didn’t have a clear idea what a prose poem was before taking my current course on writing poetry, and reading samples was a revelation. They were exciting and dark and full of rhythmic imagery, I read and reread them out loud, over and over. Highly recommend.
Mark Wallace described prose poetry: “It comes into being at the axis of writing about things powerful people don’t want to hear in a way they don’t want to understand.” I assumed I would write something to challenge the patriarchy, systemic racism, or maybe take on all of capitalism. The ink in my pen had other ideas though, and took me to the disturbing experience of driving past the windmills at night. Don’t worry, toppling all those power structures is still high on my to-do list.
I May Never “Get” Poems the Way Others Do
I’ve written poems on and off for decades, never satisfied with them, occasionally pleased with a turn of phrase or a clever rhyme, but no more. I’ll probably cringe when I read the poem above in the future, even later this week as I get feedback from my classmates and instructor. But. The buzz. What a buzz! The more I worked on it, the more energy I got. I ended up on a rainy hike after it was done because I needed to burn off *all that*.
I’ve spent weeks in this poetry course feeling deflated. I often don’t understand the poems we study the way other people do, and most of my reading and writing is just so damn literal. I love poetry and read it all the time. I have poems I recite to myself for fun, I used lines as mantras, and I do word play as relaxation. In classwork though, I’m baffled at what I’ve missed in others’ poems and how my own are interpreted.
The success of enjoying my own work is twice as sweet now, having questioned if I belonged in the world of poetry at all. Of course I do, everyone does. There’s no right or wrong, or even a “too literal”. There’s a chance to re-live an experience or emotion and process it through the sounds and rhythms of words. Combinations of words capture ideas that didn’t have words before, connecting memories and feelings together in a way that names the ephemeral.
My teenagers are setting my poem to rap music right now, so, clearly there are two people who understand me and my words. 😁
Okay, okay, since you asked, here’s another. It’s a sonnet. It rhymes.
To The Child In The Cabin
Move swiftly now, with stealth, early riser.
Step to the dock, gently push off, be free.
Mist caresses as your green craft glides here;
water laps at its sides, reminds you, Breathe.
Treetops gather you the first morning rays,
guardians smiling as you paddle past.
Water glistens, like tears flow down your face
as you sigh relief, the calm bay of glass.
You’re safe here, child, embraced with each stroke,
loved here, darling, as yourself, to your core.
We cherished each moment since you awoke.
You’re free here, to flee the anger indoors.
Watch through the windows; we’ll soften with wavesK. Lowry
the elements of fury you’re left to brave.