The Blog of John Hewitt

Write a poem about something you gave away as a child – 31p31d

Something given...

Something given…

Entry 1 in 31 poems in 31 days…

Where Poetry Came From

As long as there has been language, there has been poetry. Most of the earliest surviving texts were written in verse, but the poetic tradition stretches back to before the days of the written word, when stories and history were passed down orally using storytellers who used such devices as meter, rhyme and alliteration to ease the task or remembering and reciting tales that in many cases took days to tell.

The Evolution of Poetry

Over the years, history has become an academic pursuit rooted far more in prose than in verse. The age of the epic poem has passed. A book length poem is an anomaly these days. Poems tend to be shorter and less structured than in earlier times. Poetry forms are rarely used and such poetic devices as rhyme and alliteration have fallen out of favor, especially in the English Language, which lacks some of the lyrical qualities of languages such as Italian, Spanish and French.

For Love, Not Money

Poetry, in today’s world is at best a minor niche in the writing industry. Best selling books of poetry are few and far between. The major markets are dominated by fiction, self help, political and business books. Most new books of poetry sell fewer than a thousand copies and those that reach the tens of thousands are considered highly successful. This is a standard that falls far short of the fiction market, for which you need to sell a half a million books to be considered successful. Most book publishers don’t even publish poetry anymore. Those that do so continue to do it mainly out of a love for poetry rather than an expectation of profits.

A Small World

Poetry is not, however, without its fans. There is a small but thriving poetry community. If you live in a city of reasonable size, chances are that you can find at least one poetry reading happening in a given week. There are also poetry festivals and poetry slams (competitive poetry events) that take place in some communities. The Internet is also a thriving place for poets, with the blogging format making it easy for the average person to publish their poetry quickly and easily.

Just Like Chess Fans

Poetry is not a business. Your chances of making a living as a professional poet are about the same as your chances of making a living as a professional chess player. Both are activities that many people enjoy doing, but very few people pay to see. The only difference is that it is relatively easy to prove whether or not you are a good chess player, but whether or not you are a good poet is a much more subjective question.

Why You Should Write

The point I am getting at, in a very roundabout way, is that the best reason to write poetry is because it is something you enjoy doing or at least it is something you get some sort of emotional or spiritual benefit from doing. There is no other good reason to write poetry. If you want to be rich or famous, you’ve come to the wrong field. If you want to express yourself and join a small but thriving community of people who like to do the same, poetry is one way to go. If you love to write poetry, do it. Always try to improve, but don’t worry about whether you are “good enough” or if you “have what it takes” because poetry is about the journey far more than the result.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Write a poem about something you gave away when you were a child or when you no longer felt like you were a child. Try to think of an object that had some emotional significance to you. Avoid a description of how you felt about the event then or how you feel about it now. Try to make the significance of the event come through in your descriptions of the item and the cause of giving it way.

Feel free to post your poem in the comments or on your own site with a link back to here. This will give other people the opportunity to read your poem.