On Finding Poetry

Bookshelf full of poetry

I find poetry in more places than my bookshelf.

by Teresa Swartz Roberts

Blog post 52. Copyright 2022

I was thinking about poetry when I started to dance.

I have brilliant little bursts of ableness from time to time. When it happens, I try to get work done. Not today. Today I danced. Today the poetry of movement was more urgent than my to-do list of chores. I am paying much more attention to the poetry I find around me –or within me—than I used to.

If you look for it, you can find poetry anywhere. I first learned of formal Found Poetry when a friend who was taking a college poetry class copied down a selection of words from a shampoo bottle, rearranging them into her own creation. She ended up with lines something like “all natural gentle formula; call poison center if ingested.”

Remember poetry refrigerator magnets? Just put words in a different order to make a new poem. It’s not a new idea. Dadaism at the turn of the 20th Century gave us Alfred Jarry, who liked to cut words out of the newspaper, put them in a hat, and pull them out at random to write a poem. (I learned that from a Crash Course video in the History of Theater series.) Think of the resulting poem as a word collage.

As a teenager in West Virginia with a large network of 4-H friends, I created many word collage bottles. I wish I had one to show you. They took hours to make, and I ended up with a unique jumble of words that described a friend or loved one. Then I’d stick a dried flower in the top of the bottle and give it to said friend or loved one.

My brain jumps from thought to thought so rapidly sometimes that I see poems erupting from the randomness. Other times, I will wake up with a complete poem in my mind and write it down:

I dreamed of Mother
last night. We were
on a trip.
She was herself
until the end
of the dream.
I can feel her,
and I can smell her.
I can
hear her voice. I can
feel her so near me.
I can feel her soul
near me.
The machine I’m reading this into has changed
could into can.
It may know more
than I do.

I speak almost all of my words now when I write because it’s more comfortable for me. That can lead to a kind of absurd poetry when the app has not yet learned my speech patterns. If you don’t use a speech to text program on a regular basis, try it now. Just read something, even this paragraph, into your phone. I’ll wait.

Here’s mine:

I have a
ha ha ha ha ha of
you are listening and
has a leader or
who is as maintenance commission
and the Microsoft thinks
and acts on socks
we’re Home Computer

Mostly, the poems remain in my head and entertain me on some level. I like to watch the TV menu while My Honey is scrolling through it and create one long description based on whatever’s on the first line of each page. So in my head, Love Story can be mashed up with Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Then there are the poems that are only poetry metaphorically. The bluejays outside my kitchen window are a poem. They flit and divebomb and sing and screech. Their mood dictates what words I hear in my mind.

The white noise our new refrigerator makes is a poem. Buzz, which is the sound My Honey hates the most, is common. Whoosh and thunk don’t happen as often, but they always get my attention. It’s the contrast between the noises that surprises me. Poetry surprises me in its ability to show a whole world in a single word.

Stillness is a poem.

And today, for a bit, I was a poem. Poetry moves me. This morning, my body moved me –literally and metaphorically. For much of my life, I danced almost every day. It was a part of my identity. I’m not able to do it so often now that my Parkinson’s has advanced. But when I do, I am carried away with the rhythm, the meter, the symbolism, the poetry of movement.

Certainly, I can find poetry online or in my back copies of literary magazines that I’ve saved because I knew the poets as students. I’ve saved my college literature anthologies, too. But I must say that poetry is everywhere, and I enjoy finding it –or being it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s