Anyone who knows me understands the effect words have over me.
A harsh word can wound me for years. (I could show you the scars.)
A kind word has the capacity to inspire, move, challenge and encourage me, in all the ways that really matter.
There’s always a right word to use when you’re writing, a best word, and writers know it when they nail it. Imagine the image of an Olympic gymnast spinning off the uneven parallel bars and perfectly landing her dismount–I know it when I’ve scored a “10” by choosing the perfect word to communicate an idea. All writers know it.
A lot of writers (like me) like words so much we use too many of them. I hope one thing I’ve learned over the past few years is how to strike superfluous words. Wait–I know I haven’t learned it, but I’m learning. When I read some of my old work now, I see how I could cut it in half.
This is why I love poetry. Word economy.
Of course, poetry can be intimidating; it’s incredibly subjective. I’m not drawn to the work of all poets, but those to whom I am, I’m smitten.
I think it started with e.e. cummings in the fifth grade. I don’t recall a specific poem, but I adored his unconventional style, and he was the first author to make me think I could write poems, too.
Of course, just because you write poems doesn’t mean they’re good, but that’s not really the point, is it? If you’re satisfied, that’s enough.
I find it best not to find the value of art in the eye of the beholder.
It’s a pure expression of the author’s heart, undeniably beautiful–you just have to have the right eyes to see. If the author is the only one with 20/20 vision, so be it. That’s enough.
My niece introduced me to a new poet the other day, Nayyirah Waheed. Oh, my…. Her work is stunning. She’s a masterful word economist with the ability to knit together a few words into something that will slay dragons. Powerful. Provocative. Penetrating.
I don’t yet have her book yet; Abby wouldn’t part with her copy of salt. But I read enough to know I want to read more, and that I can learn a lot from Waheed; about poetry, sure, but also about life.
A few poems to whet your appetite; spacing, punctuation, and formation is all hers–
when they hear
and this is how
* * *
my favorite kind.
that i can
* * *
does not want me
it is not the end of the world
if i do not want me.
the world is nothing but endings.
* * *
you broke the ocean in
half to be here.
only to meet nothing that wants you.
* * *
can we speak in flowers.
it will be easier for me to understand.
— other language
* * *
as a writer, if someone falls
in love with my work.
i know they have fallen
in love with my mind. having
no idea what my face
looks like. they chose my
mind. art may be the only
place a woman can be whole. and seen.
without being seen.