How A Seven-Week Class Birthed My Inner Poet (Self- Evaluation)

I started this class with the complete intentions to enhance what I thought I was the basic knowledge of poetry—instead, I learned that everything I thought I knew about my writing, or poetry in general, was insignificant compared to the entire concept. My poetry was beautifully crafted language, but everything was in concepts and abstract metaphors—there was nothing concrete for my readers to prick their fingers on or rub against their skin, and this left them looking at my poetry through a bullet-proof glass. This semester I came into the class as a writer, but I came out as a vivid image sculptor of words. Each word I read in all three of our books this semester became sparks that I desperately wanted to see ignite— I learned about imagery as if my high school teacher never uttered a crucial word. The more images I painted the more critically I thought, and thus, I felt my overall writing quality over time.

The writing journal was important to me because it was my “safe space.” I would write poetry with the intent to vomit—I would binge the words that I needed to to tell someone else even if was paper, but then my poetry would be just that—A heaping pile of miscellaneous, pains and joys that were once inside me. I think being able to write down what I needed to say helped me clarify my thoughts and release what wouldn’t fit into the poem—it was a way I could spill my heart and soul without worrying about poetic devices or coherent sentences, and then I would find a brilliant concept deep within those words. Ironically, the writing journal also helped me when I thought I had nothing to say—I would commonly use my writing journal to write through my writer’s block by writing about anything that was on my mind at that time, or about events that I had gone through a particular day. Sometimes, my brain was a hurricane filled with sharp debris that made everything else in my life seem stagnant, but I found that writing just to write is exactly how any poem really begins—an unforeseen idea.

Reading other poems from our class kept me accountable for my poetry style—the diversity of language, poetic devices, and even topics would whip my comfortable thoughts to pursue the desire of improvement. Additionally, seeing other mistakes or miscommunication in fellow classmates’ poetry worked better than any mirror ever could because I was not emotionally educated as a writer— when I looked at someone’s poem I had the privilege of ignorance that I needed to learn to think about when writing. Reading the poetry from The Best American Poetry 2016 was most helpful when I was trying to use more imagery—the quality of my writing improved with each poem I read because I was able to dig deeper and understand the complex poetic choices. It was a pleasure to use the poetic devices learned from these poems without mimicking their stylistic choices.

The book by Mary Oliver was everything that I was not—it was straightforward, technical, and favored classic writing styles. Yet, I was still able to connect with the reading because it gave me the words that I never could have found alone. I was never someone who stressed the technicalities of poetry because I thought knowledge would flow from my soul, but the meters and vowel sounds that Ms. Oliver talked about only sharpened my ability to slaughter my unnecessary, yet beloved, structures. Although, there were some concepts better witnessed than simply reading—that is, the ability to write about your deepest sorrows as if they weren’t yours. Poems such as “The Sadness of Clothes” by Emily Fragos, and “Reading to My Father” by Jorie Graha helped me understand how to critique my writing (even though each word felt like a bullet) as if I didn’t know the narrator.

My appreciation for poetry was only enhanced in this class—with each analyzed poem, and examples of poetic devices in Western Wind, I was able to understand not only the purpose of poetry, but also the expectations that come with it. I realized not all poems are fair, and it’s not fair to judge a poetic device by a poor poem. The more I began to understand these concepts of poetry the better my writing got— endless revisions and rewrites of my developing thoughts clarified my style as a writer, and my idea of what poetry is. I thought this class would be a repetition of my high school classes, but it actually emphasized everything my English classes missed, and the balance of the two gave me option of increased potential as a poet. When I started this class, I had recently been evicted from my house, my mother was in the hospital, and I was in overtime frequently at work— this extra “task” that I thought would only further suffocate me ended up becoming my last breath for each stanza that I improved became my willing sobriety and sanity.


— Brandi “Bean” Brownell


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