October 6, 2011

I am a Poet?

by Kendal Privette

My first book, Pinky Poo, Here to Save the Day, never reached beyond its target audience – my family and Mrs. Perkins, my first grade teacher. After all, what kind of platform does a seven-year-old have? Fast forward thirty-four years, and I have a closet full of notebooks and a flash drive twenty-three percent full of documents that I have never shared with anyone. How, then, do I consider myself a writer? And a poet?

I began writing in earnest in 2006 when a friend gave me a medium-sized red, spiral notebook for my birthday. Her card read, Write it. She meant my journey. Write it. I was in the midst of battling anorexia and felt utterly hopeless. I scrawled out hateful messages to myself, notes for the doctors, grocery lists, and questions for God. And a story was born. It’s first shape? A novel. A fairly heinous attempt, I have to admit. I stalled out in the narrative and struggled to shape realistic dialogue. But I finished it. A novel. Enter the Western Carolina Literary Festival of 2007. Enter Thomas Lux and Gloria Vando, and my poet’s heart was born. Finally a form that fit my need for brevity and weightiness.

I began publishing poetry pieces on my Facebook page under Notes, and met with mild success (success being defined in quantity of comments). I covered what was on my heart – anecdotes about the children, family memories, thoughts on faith. In the background, I began writing my story, Full, in the same format. I relied on journal entries and memories to compile sixty-one poems that captured the three-year battle.  I entered the blog world in 2010, writing mostly poetry about my daily life – struggles with ED, mentoring, faith, church, family. I publicize on my Facebook account and link up with several memes on a regular basis.

I always tell my middle school students that neither writing nor reading poetry has to be scary, and then we read Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout and song lyrics just in case they don’t believe me. Do you believe it? Go ahead. Give it a try. Pull out that spiral or open a new document and write your heart.

·         Think about your goal. Mine is to write a brief piece, packed with meaning that captures the reader and moves her to think, laugh or recognize a truth.

·       Write about something real from your life. It should be authentic.

·       Word placement is important when writing poetry. If I want a particular one to have emphasis, I usually put it alone on a line or at the end of line.

·       Don’t let the number of words trip you up. I write until my thoughts are complete, whether I end up with seven words or seven pages. And then I pare it down!

·       Throw away preconceived notions about rhyming and meter. Not necessary. Of course, if it’s sonnets you enjoy, go for it!!!

·       Throw away preconceived notions about capital letters and punctuation.  At this season in my life, they have a crowding effect on my pieces, so I don’t generally use them. (And I’m a language arts teacher!!!)

·       Don’t stress over a title. At least not in the beginning. Mine come to me last, after the piece has taken shape. Since poems have a lot of meaning packed into a few words, make the title essential to your meaning.

·       Finally, and this is a hard one for me, if readers don’t interpret your piece the way you interpret it, get over it.

And as you write. And as you read. Remember the words of Paul Valery, A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” Write with passion. Read with grace!

Kendal lives in northwestern North Carolina where she teaches middle school and is raising two boys. She and her husband have a heart for missions and travel when they can. She loves reading and running in her spare time. She has published one book, Full, and blogs {mostly poetry} at a spacious place.

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