Sara M. Robinson
I have been reading an old paperback from the past, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I venture to guess there are many readers who remember this book from some fifty years ago. All of my friends read it, but I was so left-brain that I missed it. Until this year. Now that I am a proud right-brain, this book is so timely for me. It’s not so much about taking care of a cycle, as it is a journey to find what matters. I love this because it speaks to me of my journey with Poetry Matters.
In the book, the narrator ponders on the definition of Quality and why a definition is important. In all the previous columns, I’ve likely danced around topics that lead to a successful poem, or at least a satisfying writing experience. I had not written about Quality. So, maybe it is something we should address. How would you define Quality?
Is Quality a description of an attribute? What was the first known “Quality something?” Seems to me there had to be a comparison to start with. But that is not satisfying as it is so subjective.
This conflict brings me to poetry. How would we describe a “Quality poem?” Is that description necessary? Today we often find so many things attached to the word Quality that I think it may have lost its original definition. Webster’s definition: “that which makes something what it is.”
A basic nature or attribute completes the definition.
Poetry is that something and each poem is what it is. Quality for poetry is a validation that means with each poem we write we can say it has Quality. This is an important statement because we can take pride in that our words created lines which led to a poem. When you complete your poem, you have created a Quality entity. Sure, this piece may need some further work or revision, but those are improvements or modifications and only work to enhance the Quality.
Your poems exist. Your poetry is relevant. Your poems would not exist or perhaps even disappear if Quality was subtracted. All literature would be in peril if Quality was to disappear.
As beautiful and as mysterious Quality is, so is poetry.
Think about your writing and what your work brings to you. Hint: When you write something, you put a part of yourself out there. That’s your Quality.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Until next time…
Sara M. Robinson, founder of the Lonesome Mountain Pro(s)e Writers’ Workshop, and former Instructor of a course on Contemporary American Poets at UVA-OLLI, was poetry columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and inagural poetry editor for Virginia Literary Journal. She has served as guest lecturer at UVA’s College at Wise, Wise, VA. Her poetry has appeared in various anthologies, including We Grew Wings and Flew (2014), Scratching Against the Fabric (2015), Virginia Writer’s Club Centennial Anthology (2017), Blue Ridge Anthologies and Mizmor Anthology (2018). Journals include: Loch Raven Review, The Virginia Literary Journal, vox poetica, Jimson Weed, Whisky Advocate, 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 Stones for Words (2014), Sometimes the Little Town (2016), a finalist for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 2017 Book Award. In 2019, Needville, her poetry about effects of coal mining on SW Virginia was released and in 2020 debuted as play in Charlottesville. Her most recent publication is Simple River (2020, Cyberwit).