I've never been a huge fan of poetry, especially that which requires a considerable amount of effort to parse and understand. Much of what I've recently read seems abstract, and I don't like to work so hard to find the definitive message in what I'm reading. Nevertheless, as a writer, I feel a little guilty about ignoring an entire genre of work.
In a recent writing workshop, our instructor, an award-winning poet, informed the class that a poem must be read at least three times before its true meaning is appreciated. Even then, interpretation is subjective. For National Poetry Month (April), he assigned different styles of poems to read, and we were then asked to emulate one of those styles and produce a poem of our own—a task to which I was not endeared. Almost in protest, I wrote two poems based on a memoir excerpt I'd been working on with the mindset that just about anyone can write poetry. One version rhymed and the other conformed to my interpretation of free verse or narrative poetry.
I was anxious to see which version my classmates preferred. Somewhat split in their partiality to one over the other, they noted a slight preference for the free verse format. To my surprise, a few classmates also found my work somewhat literary. Perhaps I received this accolade because I used a couple of Early Modern English terms for reasons not entirely clear to me. Though I haven't read Shakespeare in eons, perhaps my use of Early Modern English was a latent manifestation of a poetic voice I didn't know I had.
The free verse version happened to be my favorite as well because composing it felt similar to writing a short story. I enjoyed the hunt for a choice selection of words; but what surprised me most was my dogged determination to write two distinct forms of poetry. Enamored with the process, I even joked with my instructor about being a poetry convert. Amused, he shared how he ended up becoming a poet in a similarly serendipitous fashion. He also encouraged us to submit our poems to anthologies.
Armed with feedback from my classmates and a bit of inspired motivation, I revised my free verse version and submitted it to a few contests and anthologies. So far, I've received one rejection out of about six submissions. However, I'm excited to have discovered an additional creative outlet that seems to work well for some of my darker stories. Dare I say that I've already written another poem and researched additional submission venues?
I guess the moral of this story is, Try it—you might like it. Perhaps I'll add poetry to my list of writing genres!