Sunday, September 29, 2019

Why poetry? It's how we deal with the blob

This morning my son asked me why I write poetry.

I wasn’t actually aware that Keats (yes, I named my son after the Romantic poet) even knew I wrote poetry, or had much of a sense of what poetry is. He’s six, so he’s exposed to more poetry than he will be as he grows older — Dr. Seuss and other picture books, the little songs we sing.

I was surprised to be asked this question, and gratified, too. He sees me living and moving through a slightly separate world than his own. I’m not sure if I thought of my own mother in terms outside of myself at this age, even though I saw her in her nurse’s uniform every night as she walked out the door to care for patients in the cardiac unit.

It’s good to be seen by the people who love us.

It’s hard to answer this question for someone so young, and I had to take a moment to think of what I wanted to say.

“Remember that dream you had the other day?” I asked him.

He had told me about a dream where he was in a building and a big blob was taking it over, inflating into the hallways and bulging out of doors and windows.

“You thought about that for a long time,” I reminded him. “You wondered what the blob was and how it got there.”

He remembered. The dream both scared and fascinated him, and it clearly stuck with him. He asked me about it more than once. Where did the blob come from? Would it come back to another dream?

My poetry is just a written version of his thoughts about the blob, I explained. Sometimes our thoughts take over, and we work hard to make sense of them. For me, the words that I attach to this process are not rooted in regular syntax. I don’t think about big truths in grammatical sentences, and neither does he. Instead, words and images come, and I find myself trying to make connections.

What I said to him simplified this idea a bit.

“I write poetry because my thoughts are too big for regular words,” I said.

He nodded. He knew just what I meant and was satisfied.