NaPoMo 2013 – my opening salvo – On poetry and transformation

I have a deadline to meet later this week, 500-700 words on “why poetry is transformative.” Here’s my start:

On Poetry and Transformation

Words don’t flow from meaning—meaning flows from words. Shift a syllable here or there, free a phoneme, dare to let the music choose its own lyrics, and what you know and what you feel veer out of the orderly lines and dart across the border beyond which There Be Dragons.

And honest poetry is the language of dragons translated into human tongues, or how human tongues speak Dragon.

Or maybe poetry is the place where I get to be a dragon.

Or poetry is what my Dragon-self and I create together, turning words into fire and flight.

As a poet, I try to turn experiences and emotions that exist outside of language into songs my people can sing. Like how I started this small essay a few inches above this line, determined to be smart and profound and deep, to craft carefully each syllable, until lines led to across led to border led to beyond which led (through a childhood soaked in fantasies of escape) to Dragons and now here I am, no longer a poet but a vast leather-winged beast with a voice that shatters stone walls and breath that burns walled cities to ash.

There is in every poet such as beast as mine—my Dragon-self, nostrils flaring, smells friend worth dying for or foe worth the fight. Most I think sport wings and armor or claws large as tree roots or eight sets of legs to dance an army off a cliff.

And for all of us poetry is our compromise between destroying the world and loving it. Or is the power of destruction transformed into love. Or love translated into the power to destroy.

A poem that is only what it seems to be is not poetry. Nothing is poetry until you catch a scent that makes you shiver, until what your brain reads and what your body knows diverge, until you catch out of the corner of your eye a shadow that strikes the nerve that knows you might yet be prey.

If at the end of a poem you are who you were when you started the poem you have not dared to dwell in poetry, nor dared to let poetry dwell in you.

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