I’ve always fancied myself something of a poet.
This may be more than a little presumptuous on my part: I’ve never formally studied poetry; I’ve never taken courses in it beyond what was covered in my grade 11 creative writing class.
(Admittedly, the class in grade 11 was the only in-class instruction I’ve ever had in prose as well. However, I did spend from about 2001 to 2004 reading every creative writing how-to book I could get my hands on, which, to me, likewise counts as a prose education.)
Yet, everything I learned about poetry during that grade 11 writing class just seemed to resonate with me: poetic meter; unexpected metaphors, similes and rhymes; beginnings, middles, endings, and points of view, just like in prose; denotation; connotation; the sound of the words vs. their literal meaning.
All these lessons have also come to be parlayed into the prose of my novel-in-progress, to which I’m always keen to lend a poetic edge.
And conversely, the prose of my novels-in-progress always seems to inspire me to write poetry. In 2003, for my first (shelved, someday to be rewritten) novel, in (self-indulgent) emulation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I composed some 18 poems/songs of the world in which the story was set (including one written in alliterative-accentual verse – or at least my primitive understanding of it – because that’s what Tolkien did).
For my current novel-in-progress, I’ve written two poems.
2003 was only one of my prolific poetic phases. 1996 was another – perhaps the most carefree one – while I was still in grade 11: in additional to my writing class poetry assignments, I wrote an ongoing, rhyming epic starring my best friend and myself in our various made-up adventures with our favourite book and movie characters (i.e. poetic fan fiction).
My most solemn phase was in 2006 while in complicated, unrequited love, which saw me scribbling all the angst in verse I’d missed out on in the diary of my teenage self.
I hadn’t written any other poetry since.
Until some two months ago.
What’s in those mountains?
After five years of living in mountainous Vancouver, BC, I one day randomly thought up a haiku about the mountains while cycling to work:
Sleep-capped in snow, wrapped in mist,
Rising late this morn.
One haiku quickly turned into three: two weeks to the day later, I entered a writing challenge hosted by sci-fi/horror author, Chuck Wendig, entitled “Three Haikus Tell One Story”. After editing my three haikus for a whole week (!), I finally submitted my entry. Once again, I was motivated by mountains:
What’s in those mountains?
Night winds whip down in whispers –
Words of anguish, pain,
Solitude. Up now
I struggle, falter; suffer
My own sorrows no
Longer echoes heard
Below. Now the hills lean close,
I didn’t win the challenge, but by now, the mountain Muse had firmly taken hold of me. I dug out one of my angstiest (and, hence, favourite) laments from 2006 and reworked it. It’s essentially the same poem – now it just contains a theme of mountains rather than of cities:
When Mountains Fall
If it all ended tomorrow –
The fall of mountains at the last of days
Dawning as shamefacedly hot as we’d greenly feared
And hoped –
Scattered among the wreckage, you’d find
Broken phrases of all I wanted to tell you
Still twinkling like crystal veins shattered to shards
And sharp enough to bloody both our fingers, even now,
Moments before they’re forever buried in ash
Stirred by a breeze as gentle as
A private sigh of relief.