By Sara M. Robinson
For me it is a misnomer to say I write poetry. It’s not like I set out to write an essay or even a fictional prose piece. I have to cast about my thoughts in such a way that my lines and stanzas provide pauses for the reader to stop and think about what I have written. This is actually tough for me as I have always been a “gabber” with my mantra of “why say in 30 words when 300 will work. So, I say I work at” composing” poetry. This has served me to learn more about the discipline of careful selection and contemplation of what to write, and say.
As in any craft in which the artist has a strong emotional investment, practice is a key component. If I am not writing, then I use the time for reading. I allocate a block of time to write and think, at least 2 hours a day. I have a dedicated writing space, which is my domain on good days, my catacomb on dark days. But I have a great view of a big oak tree rising above our apricot tree, which stands guard over the lilacs and this view never
fails to keep me grounded. Even when I can watch an approaching storm I can sense a
transfer of energy.
Many artists start their craft or their creative passion(s) early in their lives. I was not that lucky. Poetry came late to me, after I turned 65. Many of my poetry contemporaries had at least a 40-year head-start. I’ve had a lot of catching up to do in a short time. I am only 70 now. And the flip side of this is that I want my poetry to be relevant to the younger writers, too. One way I do this is by attending conferences at colleges and spending time on campus in English departments interacting with emerging writers. Young people today are smart and savvy. I have to be as good a wordsmith as I can be to keep up with them, compete with them, and be included with them.
For active poets, newly-minted poets, and even those who simply want to read poetry, I would offer that my regular column, Poetry Matters, in Southern Writers Magazine, could be a useful tool. The major focus of the column is to present the art of writing poetry in a user-friendly manner without the intimidation of academic scrutiny. I am a community poet so I work on the accessibility of poetry to mainstream readers. After all this is where poetry started. Poetry can be and should be accessible to everyone and anyone who enjoys reading.
So, as I compose poetry, I want to be a witness to the world, whether it is nature, society, or the big area in between. Then give this witness to readers. The reader then determines if the poems give enlightenment, education, entertainment, or all three.
Sara M. Robinson, award-winning poet, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pros(e) Writers’ Workshop, and Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, is poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. In addition to publication in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014) and Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), and journals: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, and Poetica, she is poet and author of Love Always, Hobby and Jessie (2009), Two Little Girls in a Wading Pool (2012), A Cruise in Rare Waters (2013), and Stones for Words (2014). Her latest poetry book, Sometimes the Little Town, released in February 2016, is a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award.