Why Do I Write Poetry?

“Language made me a writer; love, a poet.”  NKC

People have often asked me why I write poetry. Why not short stories or novels? To me, that’ s like asking a sculptor why he doesn’t paint, or a water colorist, why she doesn’t work in acrylics. But I suppose it’s a fair question, especially for those who don’t write at all, and find poetry the least accessible of all literary forms.

I’m sure it has something to do with the way my brain works, and how I see the world. Those who know me have suggested that my brain is akin to a pinball machine, or a mouse in a wheel–pinging and running full tilt, full of oddities and quirks. But I know that for me, despite my sometimes annoying loquaciousness, I experience the world in stunning moments of grace, beauty, and gravity. In order to capture my feelings, which often flood me with sensations and visual imprints, I grab a pen and jot–note after note, until something capturing that feeling begins to appear on the page. And in this case, less is more. I don’t want a full Kodak moment, but the essence of that feeling.

Then too, I love language, words, and playfulness. Crafting  words on a page is a joy to me–hunting for just the right image, phrase, word sound, arrangement, or end stopping a line at an unexpected point… this is my art. And while I’m trying to make my readers see something close to what I saw or experienced, I’m also trying to allow room for their own experience to fill in between the lines.

I was raised by parents who surrounded me with books and shared their love of words with me. Poetry was king in our house. My Father, whose Father wanted him to be a lawyer, longed to be a poet, but wound up a copy writer on a city newspaper. Many nights, after a few drinks, he’d read to me from an old blue anthology, his favorites–Poe, Shelley, Tennyson, Byron. Limericks and nonsense verse too. My favorites.

In the same spirit, my Mother would bring out her entire collection of Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas on heavy, black 78s, and sing along to their endless patter songs. My head was always being filled with wonderful words. 

And most nights, I was tucked into bed to the rhymes of A.A. Milne (and not just “Pooh” poems, but “The King’s Breakfast”),  and Dr. Seuss (I still love Thidwick), Gelett Burgess’ “The Goops,” and Robert Louis Stevenson. So poetry was part of my growing up.  I had the good fortune of falling in love with the form before any school teacher tried to tell me it was “important” or killed it with heavy handed analysis.

In high school, my taste in poetry shifted from my Father’s  Romantic poets, toward the more experimental and minimal: Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, and William Carlos Williams. But our poetry bond was always there. Then, thanks to my  Alma Mater, Mt. Holyoke College, I was thrust into the vibrant world of contemporary poets, whom I’ve followed ever since.

Finally, when looking now over the hundreds of poems in my notebooks, I see a common thread. I write for love, and about  love. Things I love. Love. The longing for it, the taste of it, the joy of it, the loss of it.  And so much is encompassed in that realm–love for my family, friends, students, my two sons and new daughter, laughter and silliness, my animals, two very special miniature horses, nature, my farm in Texas, my newly discovered life and love in Upstate New York, and life itself, with all its beauty and gritty ugliness. So I guess, this epigraph, which I wrote one day on a whim, really does answer the question, “Why do I write Poetry?”

About Nancy K. Carpenter

After 25 years in Texas, I've returned to Upstate New York to start a new life. In this journey, I've had to turn to my pen to make a living, as both a writer and teacher. One of my biggest challenges has been to catch up with the changes in technology that passed me by while I was raising my sons, riding horses, and raising hay on a farm outside Dallas. A writer, poet, teacher, and tutor, I have had to give up "fighting Gutenberg," as I used to say, and come to terms with the internet-- Macs, PCs, eBooks, iPads, and the world of cyberspace. These are my musings about life and the road that led me to this blog--my latest attempt to join the 21st Century.
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5 Responses to Why Do I Write Poetry?

  1. MsKate Duffy says:

    Yup, all the love and beauty…and she can still craft a rhyme with Nantucket. 🙂 Re: Blog- It’s about time. I’ll follow you anywhere. xo

  2. Brian Jones says:

    I’m lifting a lager
    To Nancy K., blogger,
    Whose every post
    Will result in a toast!

  3. Brian Jones says:

    Pewter plate awards are great:
    for praising couplets, or serving cutlets!

  4. If one poem lead to another, bravo Brain! Thanks for the epigram!

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