Now, it’s common knowledge that I don’t give us humans much credit. There are plenty of other people running around that give us far too much credit, there are those who think that we are greatest thing that the universe has ever put forth. Despite the ridiculousness of that statement, I will concede that there are some things we’ve created that are pretty awesome, poetry being one of them.
Let me make it clear that I am a prose man first and foremost. But this does not mean that I do not appreciate a good poem every now and again. And there’s something that needs to be said on the fact that we as a species have been writing poems much longer than we’ve been writing prose. Like, since we’ve had language and some semblance of civilized society, we’ve been writing poems.
There’s something special about the poetry. Something that prose doesn’t have. It’s more…raw. The sensations and emotions that they communicate are more concentrated. The reader can feel the weight of every word in a poem, while the words of prose, save for a select few, are lighter than air.
And then there’s the experience of hearing a poem. It’s one thing to read somebody’s poetry, but to hear it spoken by the writer is when the words truly come alive. Readers pick up on things that can not be communicated through writing: inflection of the voice, tempo of the reading, stress and emphasis on words. And only the writer truly knows how their poem should be read. Readers may read at a different tempo, at a different inflection, or with a different stress. And while everyone is entitled to their own interpretation of a poem, the way the writer reads the poem communicates the feeling they were trying to capture.
Below is a poem I wrote the other day at work. Now, let me remind you again that I am a prose man first and foremost. But I do like to write poems when the mood strikes me and I feel that I am getting better at it little by little. In any case, with this poem, there is something that is lost in translation from spoken to written word. I wrote this poem to be read in a certain way, yet there is no way to communicate this to the reader without writing very specific directions, which I think would be a bother and would more importantly take away from the experience. I know how the poem is meant to be read. Part of the fun of reading poetry, at least in my opinion, is trying to figure out how to read it the way the author intended it to be read. So without further delay, here’s my poem:
There’s a stiffness in my bones
Whose source I do not know.
It’s a creeping, crawling sensation
That varies in its duration.
Days, weeks, months at a time
It stabs knives and needles in my spine.
This feeling without a name
Is the source of all my pain.
My chest grows tight, my lungs compress.
There’s no explaining this distress.
There’s nothing I can do or say
To make this feeling go away.
To its will I must bend.
I just want this all to end.
My breath grows short, my heart races.
I feel filled with empty spaces.
The light is fading, growing dim.
Is this where the end begins?
I close my eyes and suppress a cry,
Knowing I’m about to die.
And just as quickly as it appears,
The feeling vanishes, the haze clears.
I breathe easy having braved the attack,
Though I wonder when the feeling will come back.