I began writing poems when I was in elementary school. After the funeral of my great grandmother when I was 9, I wrote:
Ashes to ashes
dust to dust.
Die we don’t want to
but die we must.
As a high school senior, I was fortunate to study with an English teacher who required we keep a journal. He asked us to write a page a day. That discipline awoke the poet in me. I wrote poems daily. I left rhyming behind and went into free verse. Rhythm became more important than rhyme. Our teacher assigned writing manifestos. I wrote more than ten. We collected our best pieces into informal chapbooks and read highlights to the class. These are my best writing manifestos from that year:
No scratch marrs
the pressed pulp
Lines beg, plead,
ask to be filled.
From my loom of moments interwoven
by the hand of some unseen Weaver
words have new meanings
created by the sequence in which they lie
and when the stream runs true
I merely hold the pen as thoughts
appear in shapes unforeseen in my mind.
Writing by hand is still a way I connect to the core of my work and the core of myself. The tempo of my arm motion is like Tibetan prayer bells; it carries me into spiritual flow. Expressing myself through words is my salvation, my sanity, the essence of my being.
When I discovered poetry in Spanish at the University of Minnesota, I began to love the writing style even more. Chilean vanguard writer, Vicente Huidobro was one of the most influential for me because he merged the layout of the poem with the content. There was more to poetry than sonnets! Although beautiful, traditional forms can feel rigid. I admired the risks he took, departing from straight lines of poetry. I haven’t written picture poems, but I like how he broadened the definition of verse. I like to use his “Landscape”* when I teach Spanish classes. The playfulness of the shapes is fun to discuss.
I am not alone in liking this poem. Kids and adults alike in my classes marvel that this lively text can legally claim the name “poetry.” The form, the simple words, and the surprises like the “painted grass” stay with me. Using words to express ourselves is as old as humanity itself. Huidobro captures the joy of it and holds on tight.
Thanks for reading! Rebecca
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