A few weeks ago, I posted about “Why I Write Poetry” and encouraged others to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences for future guest posts. I’ve already received so many, and I hope they keep coming in. Thank you!
Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from Nate Pritts, who shares how poetry helps him clarify the deep water of life.
Nate Pritts is the Director and Founding Editor of H_NGM_N (2001), an independent publishing house that started as a mimeograph 'zine, and the author of eight books of poetry, including Decoherence, which won the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award and is available for pre-order now. He lives in the Finger Lakes region of NY State. Learn more at natepritts.com.
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Why I Write Poetry: Nate Pritts
I watched a puff of dandelion pollen drift through the air for about 45 minutes this morning, watched it close and then tried to notice the air itself, the texture of it everywhere. My gaze was drawn to the clouds moving slowly, almost not at all. I kept watching.
I tried to hold my gaze steady on the face of the world, but other images pronounced themselves, played behind my eyes across the inside of my soul – memories and friends, things that didn’t happen and things that did, along with other more mysterious variables, things I couldn’t quite grasp. I felt I was on the verge of understanding something, not about the clouds or pollen, and not really about me, either. Rather, it was something underneath all of that, beneath the regular noise of the world – a fundamental essence, a spiritual source code.
Poetry starts there, as I try to find my way back, just as it can start in the middle of cacophony, of work, of competing responsibilities, of frantic busy-ness. But I was lucky today! And the poem is an artifact of that encounter and hopefully has some life of its own. It is something I make out of language to convey an essence, an opening, that is beyond logic and language, deeper than image and information. I don’t think of poetry, or poems, as a literary form but as a discipline, an awareness practice, to wake my spirit up, to connect into a vital ecology of energies. I find myself traveling new roads, new pathways in my mind, new perspectives on my experience, deeper interiors of the heart.
Contemplation, meditation, reverie: these all lead into the deep water. But poetry is the process that helps me clarify what I’ve seen, what I know and what I don’t know, the luminous mysteries surrounding all of us. We’ve all experienced startling insights – into ourselves, into the mechanics of the world itself. But they can disappear, vanish like a dream of fog hit by hard morning sunlight. Poetry is how I recover those images, those memories and visions, stitching logic and intuition, discovering and articulating and discovering again.
The poem becomes a record of the suggestions and nuances and possibilities inherent in each present moment, both the physical and the metaphysical, casting back through history and ahead into the air of implications. There is so much we don’t know, can’t know, as we walk around on the planet. Poetry, for me, is a movement toward deeper revelations, a richer experience of myself as constituent element in a larger cosmology.
Which means that, for me, poetry is not writing, the way fiction or nonfiction or e-mail is writing. It’s not a diary or a reminder stuck to the fridge. Poetry is how I guide myself along a pathway of impressions and revelations, of understandings, that connects the world we see and live with deeper waters: our intuitions of both the inner and outer, the profound architecture of an enkindled consciousness, an invisible presence that lingers.
If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a 300-500 word personal essay that shares why you write poetry. It can be serious, happy, sad, silly–whatever poetry means for you. And be sure to include your preferred bio (50-100 words) and head shot. If I like what you send, I’ll include it as a future guest post on the blog.