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Thought-provoking Writing

Lord Byron Quote “But words are things, and a small drop of ink, Falling, like dew, upon a thought produces That which makes thousands, perhaps millions think.” George Gordon Byron

It makes you think (funny how that works).

For a quote about how writing is thought-provoking, this is pretty darn thought-provoking, which, I guess, proves his point. But we expect poetry to be thought-provoking. We don’t normally think of general fiction as thought-provoking. Oh, sure. Books like Animal Farm and 1984 were written to jar people’s perceptions. But those are classics. The books that people read most of the time, they’re written to entertain, not make you think, right?

Then, you start thinking about books you’ve read and how they’ve affected you.

  • Did Ender’s Game make you think about how we deal with bullying, how schools are set up, what makes an enemy, or even whether the end justifies the means?
  • Did The Lord of the Rings make you think about nations working together, about how greed corrupts, about trained prejudices, or perhaps about how trauma can have lingering affects?
  • Did any Stephen King book make you think about human frailty and powerlessness? Did it make you want to lock your doors while at the same time make locking them at all seem pointless? (But I digress)

Part of what makes a book great is its power to seem real when you read it. Even when set in a fantasy world or some futuristic society, there have to be elements that we can relate to. And any time there are elements of reality, there will be the potential for inspiring thought – whether or not that was the author’s intention at all.

But that’s good, right? After all, I don’t think it would hurt our society to think more. Do you?

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Sometimes, Poems Just Happen

There are times when you spend hours, days, or more working on a poem. A poem that you tweak and re-write and struggle with. Then, there are the other times – when poems just happen. When it’s like you’re walking through a field, trip on something, and unbury it only to find that it’s something wonderful and new. And somehow it didn’t exist until you tripped on it (wrap your mind around that one!).

There Comes a Time in Every Life” was one of those poems. I was driving home, and suddenly, it was there in my head. Line after line. No hesitation, no fumbling. It just appeared. Like I waved a magic wand. One minute, I was thinking about a hard situation and people’s reactions to it, and the next, I could practically see the poem take shape in my head.

Em T. Wytte Poem There comes a time in every life when the choices all are hard when the options all are dim and dark the chances all are slim to none when the house holds the cards there comes a time in every life when something has to give but even once it bends or breaks you somehow have to live

Originally posted on my creative writing blog, twytte.

Of course, I spent the rest of the drive home chanting it in my head over and over again because when poems just happen they tend to happen in the most inconvenient places. Places where giving them the right amount of attention or even writing them down is hard. Or impossible. Here are a few places where I’ve run into this issue.

  • In the shower
  • On horseback
  • On a treadmill
  • During a presentation in class
  • Driving on the freeway

It hasn’t happened on a date yet, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time. With “There Comes a Time in Every Life,” it was the freeway – a fast-paced one with a lot of curves, ramps, and reckless drivers. Sad to say, even knowing how dangerous and stupid it would be, I was tempted to pull over long enough to write it down. I also considered getting off a few exits early to find a convenient parking lot.

This is where voice recognition software might’ve come in handy (very handy). But I, of course, didn’t have one. I decided to drive straight home and do my best to keep it in my head until I got there. Apparently, my brain didn’t think that was enough of a challenge. When I got about halfway home, still chanting the poem to avoid possibly forgetting any of it, my brain decided to “discover” another poem.

Did I mention that when poems just happen, they often come in multiples? Or in multiple stanzas?

It’s like when ideas attack. You never know for sure how big and ruthless they are going to be about holding you hostage. You could have a few lines to think about and miss 5  minutes of class. You could have a novel to think about and miss most of class. All in all, I guess I got lucky. I only had 9 lines to remember (well, 13, if you count the other poem, too).

And out of both poems that appeared, there was only 1 word choice that I went back and forth on, and it was in this poem. Can you guess which one? (Hint: It was a conjunction conundrum.)

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Write: Reach into Hearts

When you reach into hearts to create everything Write Acrostic Em T. Wytte

Conversely, if you create everything (life), you reach into hearts.

Life is captured in the words we join. That is their beauty and their horror. That is their power.

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Brave New Voices Competitors Shout the Power of Poetry

I don’t know about you, but I think the fact that some young people are embracing poetry as a means of expression is awesome. The Brave New Voices Festival encourages teenagers to get involved in poetry and gives them a place to share their works, and these three girls used that podium to make a big statement. The continuing recognition and strong responses they’ve received for their performances of their poem “Somewhere in America” goes to show how powerful poetry can be.

At the same time I worry that the poetry slam style has taught them to insert keywords for cheers and to shout every word. I think the keyword problem would always happen when given an audience, but the shouting worries me. If they didn’t have a mic, that would be different (although projecting and shouting are different, and the former is much healthier for your voice). But choosing to shout everything ignores the strength of the words alone. Like writing in all caps, shouting takes away from that strength and emphasizes I am shouting.

When I watch some of the other videos from the poetry slam, I see more and more group poems that follow this trend, some that go beyond poetry recitation into theatre, and finally, a few others that use the strengths of the poem to improve the delivery (“I Am a Man“). I see some that vary their rhythms, that use dynamics, that do not always shout their refrain.

I see hope.

I see hope that America’s youth will not only express themselves and get into poetry but also learn that the words and the rhythms and the rhymes have power. And that they do not need to be shouted.