Why Poetry?

I get asked this often, and while I am not certain that I have a definitive answer, I’m going to attempt to elucidate how poetry is part of my life and why I write it.
I don’t know that I ever looked forward at the life that I planned for myself and said “I want to be a poet when I grow up.” Astronaut, yes. Doctor or Firefighter, most definitely. I even eventually knew that I wanted to be a WRITER… (with all the teenage drama that idea entailed at the time.) Over the years, I became an Anthropologist and Researcher as that is in my bones, and wrote a lot on the side. I wrote my first poem when I was 8, at least that I remember, and I don’t think I every really stopped writing poetry since. It has always been a way I express myself, a way to get my thoughts down and to release an emotion, memorialize a memory or have a bit of fun.
Several years ago, I helped train students for Poetry Out Loud, a national Poetry reading competition– extemporaneous speaking with poetry. It is possibly one of the most fulfilling experiences with poetry that I have ever been part of and I carry it with me to this day. A few years later a friend casually asked me what it was like being a professional poet. I blinked somewhat idiotically at her and asked her why she thought I was a POET. She laughed at me, rightly, and pointed out that not only have I taught poetry, worked on coaching with Poetry Out Loud, but I also had about 400 poems ‘under my belt’. She then asked me how in the world I could not think of myself as a poet.
So, I of course had to think about this… and when I found myself to compelled to write  poem about it, I realize that she might be right.
So, now that I acknowledge myself as a poet, rather late in the poetical game of my life, I have focused more on my poetry and spent time talking about it more to other groups of people. My favorite is when I get to talk to high school kids about poetry. They ask the most wonderful questions. My favorites: Do you need to be educated to be a poet? Does it take discipline to force yourself to write poetry?
These for me are the fundamental things that help me grow in my poetry. I have already said being ‘creative on demand’ has been the hardest job I have ever had. Now that I work full time at home, writing, editing and researching, sitting down at my desk and saying “I’m going to be creative today” can be such a struggle. It is important, however, to do just that. You have to create the habits of sitting down and writing if you want to keep things flowing continuously. While I don’t write poetry everyday or even every week, although I’m challenging myself to try that right now, I do try to write every day in some fashion. The process of writing keeps my mind sharp, it keeps me from loosing my verbal lexicon and allows an easier access to my more philosophical side.
I tend to write my best poetry after I’ve had time to think about what I am writing. I rarely writing in a moment of extreme passion, but rather my poetry is that of reflection. When I do write in ‘the moment’ it is often an extreme situation. Poetry, for me, is an expression of a single moment, and therefore once the poem is written (or sometimes even before it is finished) the  moment has ended. When I write reflectively on something, it allows me to look at a situation or moment from more sides than I would when I write in the immediate flush of emotion. Each way is good and produces something wonderful and unique. I’m a happy poet, so there too, I tend to not write when in a bad or maudlin mood.
So, that’s why I write, and how, I suppose. Right now I am challenging myself to use my poetry to address things in our society and culture that need a spotlight pointed on them. I’m also started a new challenge to spend a year writing poems in Iambic Pentameter (Blank Verse). If you want to be a poet, look to those who have gone before you, learn their style and skills. Don’t learn them to copy them, learn them to expand your horizons and give you more skills and ingenuity to work with.
Happy writing!
Galen

Promise Kept

Promise kept
A single stem lay in my palm,
The bloom vibrant in this unsettling calm.
Storms begin to brew.
Determination drives my will
To pluck apart these petals few.
My tribute to you at last.
For you, these petals lay upon the sand,
Waiting for the water to rinse the shores of land.
Footsteps echo from the past.
Slowly each petal flows out to sea;
Each taking with it a part of me.
Lightening flashes in the sky.
Electric currents pull me to
Water’s edge and remind of you;
Your will as strong as thunder.
As the last petal to the horizon rides,
Upon waves that come in with the tides,
I free your soul again.
Laughter dances in memory’s air,
As the petals finally disappear.
And with them the ache lessens.
Promises kept, and so you see,
I have kept within the better part of me
My favorite parts of you.
– a draft

Poem: 1992 – Together, a hope… a dream…

Together, a hope… a dream…
I long to love you
And let you love me.
To have you so close… so near…
To wake up with you beside me
When dawn starts to appear.
The time has come, though,
Where night draws near.
And with the fading shadows
I think of you and my past
Haunts me…
My hope for us runs thin.
I won’t give up that small glimmer
That says we will be together
To share our hopes and dreams again.
I want us to again to weep,
To cry, to rail, and to laugh together.
I wish for this
Because life means nothing
Without love together with
A hope
And
A Dream…
*excerpt of longer 1989 version, revised 12/1992
 

Poem: 1992 – An Ancient Hymn

An Ancient Hymn
Waves flood against my soul
Caressing the pounding of my heart
As it beats to an ancient hymn.
I feel myself tumbling gently
Off a cliff
To the depths
Of an ocean I’ve never been to
Or even glimpsed
Falling down
To the soft,
Welcoming ground
It awaits me with open arms
Like those of a gentle breeze
Filtering through the realms
With nature’s sweet music singing.
It barely compared to
The music of my heart.
12/6/1992

Poem: 1993 – I hold the petal of soft velvet…

I hold the petal of soft velvet
Between my fingers.
It possesses a fragrance that
Stands still in time;
Taking me back to my childhood
With memories of my grandmother’s perfume
Or forward to a walk along the paths
Of a rose garden at a grand estate.
Such a simple thing of beauty alone
Becomes magical when
Given by a new love;
Almost as enchanting
As the feelings that bloom between two souls.
 
2/16/1993 (BM)
(edited 8/4/2017)

Memory Lane

So there is nothing quite so wonderful and daunting as discovering almost 20 poems that you don’t have typed up into your archive.
I picked up a journal last week that had many of the poems I wrote from the year 1990-1996 including about 2 dozen that I have never typed up. The poems were flagged, so at one point I planned to type them up, but I obviously never did.
Most of them are from my days at University. Several of them came out of my main relationship during that time. This, in fact, is probably why I didn’t type them up at the time I was going through the process. My boyfriend from those years was killed in 2007 and I did most of my poetry transcription in 2008-09. I can see choosing to not deal with these poems at that time, when the rawness of his death still existed.
I’m glad I have found my peace with things as much as I ever will, because I truly enjoyed reading and typing up these poems, and look forward (after some serious edits) to sharing some of them. The time when we are at University, in our early twenties, can be such a unique and tumultuous time in our lives, and watching the person I was grow slowly, and sometimes painfully, into the person I would eventually become, is fascinating now that over 20 years has passed.
It is interesting timing that I find these while my poetry book is on hold due to ‘stupid computer problems’ (because don’t we all love it when the processor cable of our laptops comes disconnected). I can take the next  three weeks to work on them, and pick what I want to include in the book.
So, to those writers and poets out there, you never know what you’ll find your inspiration in, it could be an old journal you haven’t loked at in over a decade.
Galen
 
 

Little India (2002)

The sounds and smells
Reminded me of my childhood;
Days amongst my
Fathers’s students.
The laughter over the cooking
As I struggled to learn
Foreign names.
Rich spiced permeated the air
Surrounding us
Even as we stepped
Off the bus.
Scents of welcome
Wafting by on the breeze
As the silk ribbon
Dances in my hair.
 
 

Spin, Spin, Spin! (2017)

Oh to be three and full of such joy.
I watch my son and see the gears in his brain
Spin, and spin and spin!
Thoughts colliding just as he stubbles over a toy,
(or several, we never get them put away for long.)
I glance away for but a moment and he has
Markers in his hands now.
Spin, spin, spin!
Arms out, the tops of the markers undone. “Look at me,” he demands.
And I admit, I had been paying more attention to my book,
So I do. Calmly we turn the markers to a more useful purpose.
It pacifies him for a while, maybe 10 minutes at best,
And then off he goes again!
The sun is out! Spin, spin, spin!
Catching the dust in the rays of light, he turns to me,
“Outside?”
Eyes so bright, and dimmed for only a moment
When I remind him how cold it is outside.
Spin. He hugs my leg and then dances away.
SPIN. He giggles and hides behind a chair.
And out again he comes, moments later to share his joy!
A fish cracker (only a few days old, I’m sure. Still good!)
Spin, Spin, Spin!
Flops in the floor at my feet, hands raised toward me with such glee.
“Mommy!”
The smile ingites the room and my world in that moment it perfect.
So I stand up,
And we Spin!

So cold… (2003)

Would that the warmth of my thoughts be strong enough to warm my hands;
The light of a distant lantern flickers across the snow covered fields.
They are desolate in their beauty, and beckon to me…
Oh for a candle that burns so bright
Giving warmth, comfort and light
And as the wind sways the trees
It calls me forth and whispers to me.
And yet,
It is cold outside and I find no comfort
In the bitter winds that make the trees dance
To an unspoken tune. Suddenly, the crack of a limb
Echos like thunder and is falls down to the ground.
The noise so fierce it startles me here
As I sit by the dormant fire.
Wishing for a flame, hope or desire
To unburden my troubles and fears.
And then there’s the creak of the door in the back.
It opens, and the shuffle of feet reaches my ears.
I turn on my stool by that un-burning fire and sigh in frozen relief.
 
 

You see me…

Your hand upon my face
Is a balm to my soul.
Each gentle caress
Speaks so loudly that
My cheek tingles long after
Your touch moves on.
You see me with the tips of your fingers.
With my voice, my words,
I paint the world in the colours and imagination
Of a visual childhood you scarcely recall.
Each phrase feeds your senses;
A verbal texture to the unknown.
Yet, after your touch,
My words seem inadequate.
You see me as others before never did before.
Perhaps, though
They never really opened their eyes,
Never really saw,
And in that not-seeing world, missed everything.
You see me, with the caress of your hand.
And in that caress, I finally see myself.