Reading Other Poets’ Work, Writing Our Own

I love poetry. Over my life, I have read a great deal. I think reading others’ poetry makes us better writers. Writers are readers are writers. When I was young, I had the time to immerse myself in poetry No longer. Most of us lead very busy lives, and sometimes it’s really difficult to sit down and give a poem the attention we need to give it. But we do it.  Here. There. Fitting the reading in as we can.  Because we love it.   I can’t read a poem just once to appreciate it. Or to be honest, to decide if it doesn’t appeal to me personally.  Everyone’s taste is different, of course. For me it’s important to understand where the poet is coming from, to show that poet respect for that part of themselves that they have put into their work. But on the first reading, I just feel.  The first time I read a poem, my reaction is visceral.  Good, bad, ugly.  But then, of course, I just have to read it again. Even if my first response is a little negative. And then, if I love it.  Again. To savor. And, of course, if we love a poem it becomes ours.

If we are lucky, we know others who also love writing and want to read and talk about it.  Share their own and others’ with one another. Again, I have to come back to the writers group, which I have written about before.  We read our own, we read each others’, and sometimes we bring in a poem we love or have just discovered to share with one another.  A good writers group immerses itself in creativity.  And it’s fun. Other people might think we’re a little odd or obsessed with writing, as we sit there in a little coffee shop alcove, sometimes so serious, sometimes laughing, always talking.  Of course, we’re somewhat obsessed!  I must confess it’s nicer to meet in each others’ homes when possible.  We have more freedom and time.

The internet has enabled us to find other readers online. People who want to read and share each others’ work. It has freed writers and readers in incredible ways. Writers reach an audience. In school, we are told  to “know our audience” so we can reach them.  I understand that.  It’s true in so many kinds of writing, very important writing. But creative writing is different. We want to share with others from somewhere within our own experience or observation.  I hope my poem or creative nonfiction piece reaches readers who find some meaning for themselves within it. Once a poem leaves me I don’t know who has become my “audience”.  I don’t like that word, not here, not when we are immersed in creativity.  We are all readers.

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