One of my favorite reasons to write poetry is that I can shine a light on personal issues, both tragic and joyful, and wrap them in a riddle of alliteration, meter, and rhymes.
The genre of poetry is growing, especially “Spoken Word” or “Slam” poetry. I was recently honored with the task of helping to manage events and serve as a moderator for authors at The Southern Literary Festival in Dahlonega, Georgia. The first author that I worked with is a well-known poet Alex Johns (He is also a Ph.D. from the University of North Georgia`s Oconee Campus). He prefers to be called Alex, so I will do so here. His work as a spoken word poet is well-known and followed in the Athens, Georgia writing community. The guy is great, check him out.
As I sat and listened to his poetry, I was locked on him, much like the hypnotized stare that consumes us beside a campfire. His poetry is intense in meter and alliteration with a rhyme here and there. His word choices are ingenious and they grip you as he rolls along. Most of the other workshops at the festival would start with an introduction by the moderator, a short lecture by the author, and then a reading of some of their works; however, with Alex, after I read his bio and introduced him, he went straight to reading his poetry—no one moved for a solid hour.
There was both a blessing and a curse for me that day. I`m a neo-formalist in terms of my poetry. I love meter, rhyme, and alliteration and I`ve written only a couple free verse poems out of the collection of some 100 poems I`ve written. All of my published work is formal poetry. I suddenly felt as if I`d missed the boat—I was behind the times. On one hand I was incredibly inspired, on the other, I felt a bit lost.
Later that day I attended a workshop hosting author and poet Kathryn Hinds. Ms. Hinds has published more than 50 books and recently published her first fiction novel, The Healer`s Choice (Dark Oak Press, 2015). Ms. Hinds is a neo-formalist poet, and she made a statement that was not only inspiring but profound in my humble opinion. She said that meter, rhyme, and alliteration in poetry forced writers to be far more disciplined in their diction. Not only is this a very true statement from my personal perspective, but it inspired me as a poet.
Before the poets out there take me the wrong way, I`m not saying that free-verse poetry is trash or that it isn`t hard work, or artistic. Her statement breathes life into the genre of formal styles of poetry. Aspiring writers and poets might not see or recognize the importance or relevance of formal poetry writing. Their hearts may wish to write formal styles of poetry, but like me, they may feel pressure to conform to what they see as a title wave of fanfare in free-verse and spoken word poetry.
I believe we must be true to ourselves as writers. We must write and write until we find our voice and our style. Look at all the writers that sacrificed themselves on the altar of the copy-cat, trying to write another “Fifty Shades” or the next vampire novel. Believe me, I was tempted by this as well. I made a choice at one point to write the things I know (see my post on this transformative decision). If we write what we know, we will find our true voice, and our work will be unique which is vital to finding our audience.