On Making a Poem Yours
April 26, 2010
One of the fundamental questions that keeps reappearing in my head is what makes a poem yours? As I feel poetry to be one of the most emotionally volatile of art forms, particularly in writing, this question always leads me to wonder how personal to make it as a writer. Too much emotion, and the piece becomes so much a pat of you that you cannot share it without fear of rejection, of ever able to edit to find the poem’s full potential. However, with not enough emotion, readers cannot find a connection with the piece and the poet can easily lose the passion to work with it until the end. So how much is right? I’ve been writing for long enough not to take criticism personally anymore, so poetry has been a good outlet for me to discuss issues very personal to me. That being said, I’d like to try some pieces that were more abstract, but it’s difficult to work with personal pieces in a small college setting when most of the people know you on some personal level and would rather focus on how non-fictional or fictional the pieces are rather than their artistic merit. I think it is definitely up the discretion of the poet to decide how much is just enough emotion, but it is important for any artist to get a bit of a thick skin when working with emotional topics, but without the ability to open up, art will never become art.
Does it even have to be your story to make it good? When I write poetry, I always feel like I’m giving it away to the audience when it is complete, and thus it no longer holds the same personal connection with me that it once did. Maybe this is one of the reasons I like to write about ugly situations – once I can make them beautiful I can let them go. Strangely, I could never do this with long works of fiction; I get so connected to my characters, I have a hard time letting go. So maybe that’s simply it? What makes a poem yours is the ability to make something ugly, or even just real, into something beautiful to a mass audience. I think it’s very important to distinguish that claiming a piece of art as your own is not the same as not making it connectible for a wider audience. Because ultimately art is meant to evokes some sort of emotion, or create beauty where there was none before.