Bear with me here.
When we watch movies, Kevin and I have distinctively different expectations for their endings. He likes all the facts with the story laid out and all loose ends tied up. It’s agony for him to finish a movie and not be clear on what happened.
Me, I like a little mystery. I enjoy being able to speculate on how things went after the ending. A couple of classic examples:
The Break-Up: After they met on the street, did Brooke and Gary get back together? Were they already seeing other people? Did they become friends?
Lost in Translation: What does he whisper in her ear? Do Bob and Charlotte ever see each other again?
I mention this because that’s a little bit how I feel about poetry – the way Kevin feels about movies without clearly established endings. In particular, I feel that way about reading it. I can be fairly black and white in my thinking and I often feel like there isn’t enough context for me to appreciate a work of poetry. Some of it can certainly be beautiful and I appreciate the energy that goes into it, but I can also find beauty in a single word or several strung together. The don’t necessarily have a distinct meaning or mean what I want them to if they do, but they still delight me. My own has more meaning than someone else’s.
Do I write poetry? No. At least not intentionally. Sometimes, though, I will find a piece of paper on my desk with some scribbles of a note to self or burgeoning idea and, after thinking about it more today, it could be described as poetry.
Maybe it isn’t all that foreign to me after all.
This morning, as I scrolled through Twitter I saw this announcement from our local library:
Looking to get creative this weekend? Stop by our Main Branch today and create blackout poetry with us! Felt pens and paper provided! #NWPLreads #NewWest #NationalPoetryMonth pic.twitter.com/yELCWJthyk
— NWPLibrary (@NWPLibrary) April 27, 2019
I read the tweet to Kevin who asked me if it was like redacting pages from books and I told him I thought that was kind of the idea. As always, ever the good sport, he agreed to give it a shot and we pushed our library trip back further in the day so that we could time it with the start of the workshop.
We arrived and looked around for clues about where the festivities would be taking place. When we couldn’t find any, we gravitated towards the poster on the wall to see if we could find further details about the location. When we turned around, we were approached by a librarian asking if we were here for blackout poetry. Gulp. Yes. She beamed and told us to follow her, it was just about to get started.
Down the stairs we went (we’d never been there before) and we ended up in what seemed to be a meeting room in the basement. Since we’d arrived just on time, we all just jumped in. She was leading the workshop and she showed us several examples of blackout poetry that we could try to emulate. I’m sure I’ve seen some of it over the years, but I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to it. The pictures that she showed us and the work that she herself had done was outstanding. Some is simply blacked out, others use more artistic methods of blacking out the parts not being repurposed – with art or colour.
The whole thing was pretty simple. We each picked pages out of some trays, we got a pencil and a marker and we went to work. It was challenging to start. When we talked about it later, Kevin and I agreed that the hardest part was finding a place to begin. From there, it all just kind of flowed.
There is some strategy to the work. You need to know which words you want because once a word is gone behind that black ink, there’s no recovering it. I was really careful to avoid that and I did. And as we all worked on ours further, we agreed that it started to tell its own story as we moved it forward.
Kevin was a pro. He created two in the time that it took me to do mine. Here’s the final product.
Whom to cry for first
Who had traded love for protection
Who spent lifetime nursing an empty hole
The theft of the past years had taken so much
Pain was mixed with anger at the waste
He was lucky.
We were free.
All month, the library has been sharing information about April being National Poetry Month including spine poetry like this. This workshop was part of the celebration and in honour of the month and our petry experience this afternoon, I decided to commit to digging into the only poetry book that I own, The Prophet by Khalil Gibran this weekend.
Why do I own it if I don’t like poetry, you ask? Well, it was part of the reading for a course I did last year.
What are your feelings on poetry? Do you read it? Do you write it? Have you tried creating some blackout poetry?