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Where your poetry should stand


The sooner we realize that every artist was first an amateur, and then understand that there will always be someone better than you, the higher we can fly!

Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for literature with poetry that "gives a fresh access to reality." Could we afford a dream like this?

Yes why not? ‘A truly creative person rids him or herself of all imposed limitations’ Gerald Jampolsky.

Millions of writers dream of fame and fortune or simply for their work to be taken seriously. Others however, would be grateful for the smiles and praise of their friends and loved ones. The reasons for writing are endless.

Being competent at something is a goal we all embrace and sacrifice to attain; we study, ask questions, mingle with others like us, and the list goes on. However, in my research many poets are not ready to get the top. We are so much in a competition with each other which makes our pieces dilute or a complete joke. There is a focus on impressing the audience rather than passing a message and making a piece immortal. If painters read about Picasso and study the techniques he employed in his works, if musicians study about composition of men like Franz J. Haydn, who are poets and spoken word artists to be the cut above the rest?

Many poets are too attached to their poems to the extent that they never consider them being faulty or amateurish. They always have a defense whereby even grammatical spellings are classified as poetic justice! The ratio of exposure platforms for performances and readings as compared to laboratories is limited; and most existing laboratories are expensive. Sadly we live in a money world what can we do!

Can we poets afford to dream of publishing? My experiences with publishing have been a picture of heartbreak.
“For poetry books to sell they have to be escorted with a launch or several performances highlighting poems in the book; for us to publish your work you have to be a really good performer to ensure the books sell” this was the first advise I got from one publisher.

All the other advices made me select my poetry friends as my editors and critiques of my book, led me to designing my own book and think of self publishing. It is bad to settle for a compromise but when your eyes only show limitations, listen to your heart because its beat will pave the way to the runway.

Transtormer worked as a psychologist for juvenile offenders, gleaning insights into the human mind that he incorporated into his poetry. His inspiration being his environment, he juxtaposed the deep, inner workings of the human mind with vivid scenes from the landscape of his country. His works are simple and about an issue that came from a familiar part of his life. He let what was inside him advise him for it is only there that one can be advised well. If poets connected with their work, if they became one with their pieces as they wrote and even as they performed, without trying to impress others or compete but the intention to write something and wonder if you were the writer! Imagine.

However, no poem is beyond critic as it is under the mercies of an audience. How often do you share your work and who do you share your work determines your growth. It is not the number of times you do it but the growth you make each time: You do not want to be writing a repetitive mess and getting claps for it each time. Get someone who appreciates the art of poetry and has time for your work; one who will read your work several times to study its theme, form, style, and logic, then give you an analysis of your work emphasizing problems: trite phrases, flaws in form, excessive abstractions, and your strengths as well.

Who is a professional? My dictionary meaning would throw it at a person who is paid to undertake a specialized set of tasks in this sense the quality of work has to be exquisite. We should strive to be a cut above the rest; which means that we have to stop struggling for only the few local appreciations and extend our environs to the international borders. This means that we have to marry poetry to get serious, understand her inside out. We have to read how great poets like Elizabeth Barrett or William Ernest prepared themselves to practice its art and craft, and not just for the acquisition of poetry-writing skills and techniques.

When your poetry finds purpose and direction, only then can you transcend. When your poetry embraces the reader or audience, only then will you be heard. When your poetry is given the time it needs in its art and craft, only then will you be recognized.


© Namatsi Lukoye

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