Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mindful Walking Post 2: Poetry

In Afoot and Lighthearted, Bonnie Smith Whitehouse quotes Simon Armitrage: “…there’s a relationship between the poetic meter and the fall of your foot…. Often when I go for a walk I come back with a poem.”

I jumped right on this because I enjoy composing poetry, and I especially enjoy composing poetry with definite rhythm (meter) and rhyme. Free verse (no set pattern of rhythm or rhyme) is very popular these days. I’ve noticed that in many contests and literary publications, free verse is favored and rhyming, rhythmic poetry is considered rather old fashioned or trite. I don’t have a problem with free verse—actually enjoy a lot of it and have dabbled in writing some. But for me, when I determine to write a poem, rhythm and rhyme almost always take over. 

At the risk of being considered the ultimate nerd, I’ll confess to enjoying prosody (the science or study of poetic meters and versification) both as a student and as a former English teacher. I know, I know. I can hear the groans and grinding of teeth. There are many who contend that to analyze a poem’s form is to wrench the very life out of it. They feel—to borrow from E. B. White’s observation on humor—that analyzing a poem is like dissecting a frog. No one enjoys it, and the frog dies in the process. I’ve no desire to murder anyone’s poem, but prosody—like sentence diagramming—appeals to that strong left-brained side of me. 

I think rhythmic, rhyming poetry has fallen into disrepute lately because often it appears too forced, too artificial. But if done correctly,  rhythm and rhyme in poetry can be as natural as our heartbeats … or the fall of our footsteps. And after all, those are the elements that draw us us to poetry in the first place. I used to tell my English students that as far as I knew, no child ever listened to a Dr. Seuss poem and responded, “Wow, that message was deep.”

Sooo armed with these thoughts, 
I sat out on my morning walk in search of a poem.
I sat out on my mindful walk this morning in search of a poem … and maybe a few augers. As I walked, I noted the equally stressed thump-thump my feet made on the packed sand—a spondee! The augers eluded me, but amid the many sounds and sights on the beach, I managed to find this poem. (In case anyone is interested—the odds are, you’re not—it’s eight couplets of predominantly spondaic dimeter.)

                                          Beach Walk

                                       Breeze lags
Flag sags

Waves roll
Walkers stroll

Gulls shriek
Folks greet

Parents shout
Kids pout

Tide turns
Sand churns

Birds glide
Bouys guide

                                            Surf swells,
                                            deposits shells

                                            Sun blazes
                                            The sea amazes!

Try composing a poem on one (or more) of your mindful walks. It’s fun. Take inspiration from the sights and sounds around you and see if you detect a rhythmic pattern. Once you do, let it lead you to a poem! (And don’t worry—identifying the name of the meter isn’t necessary.) 

If you'd care to share the poem from your walk, I'd love to read it!