Monday, December 9, 2013

Daily Prompt: Think Like a Poet

What does it mean to be a poet? It's not how many poems you write, what style they are written in or where there are published (or not). To be a poet is to intentionally adopt a way of thinking that expands perception beyond the literal. 

Thinking like a poet frees you to dip in and out of a metaphorical way of viewing the world while maintaining the objectivity necessary to observe. Each of us filters observations through the lens of opinion and experience. That’s why a novelist can make a character come alive by telling the reader what the character notices. For example, three characters walk into an office meeting. One character notes the unraveling hemline on the skirt of her boss; another wrinkles his nose at the smell of burnt microwave popcorn; the other rushes for a seat near the whiteboard. When we read fiction, and recognize ourselves and others in the characters, we learn about ourselves and, hopefully, develop empathy for others.

Poems can also have narrators and characters. But in reading poems we learn about ourselves and develop empathy for others less from following a narrative of causes and events, motives and consequences, than by permitting an emotional response to images evoked by the poem (through "sound and sense," rhythm, music and meaning) to bubble up. 

To move through life with a poetic mind, then, means opening yourself to respond as you are, with your unique self formed from your unique set of qualities, an amalgam of nurturance, nature and chance. 

A metaphor takes us further

Think of your poetic self as a duck paddling the surface of a pond, taking in quantifiable information as needed. As you paddle and bob along you participate in the physical world, noticing time of day, colors of leaves, location of other birds, whatever grabs your attention. You also, sometimes, dip into the murky waters of figurative language where light’s refraction changes angles, shadows and shapes. This is your poetic self, on and under the surface of the pond.

Daily Prompt: Set yourself the challenge of making three metaphors or similes today, combining images that catch your heart or eye. Metaphors make connections. They offer one way of stretching the literal to make room for feelings and exercising your poet-self.

Example: You see a mother wrap herself and her child in a shawl for warmth.  Later, you see a branch bent from the weight of snow over a rock. 

The bending branch wraps a stone like the mother drawing a child warmly into her shawl.

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