On Writing Poetry


It's funny, how I enjoy writing poetry. I have vivid memories of when I was in first grade (the hated Mrs. Silver was my first-grade teacher, this was back in New York) and we had to write a poem in class about a rainbow. I took a long time because I guess I was an artistic perfectionist even back then. Well, I took longer than the time that evil Mrs. Silver allotted (one class period), so she wouldn't let me go to gym class, which of course is the highlight of any first-grader's day. From that point on I refused to write poetry or do anything else creative (such as participate in art class), at least in school (much later I did start playing music). It was only when I went to this alternative high school for one year that I finally wrote a poem, and then only under pressure from my teacher, Andy Bernstein -- positive pressure of the "you can do it" (but it's the assignment so you have to anyway) variety. I was truly traumatized by my early experience in this regard. (Mrs. Silver was also the witch who switched me from left-handed to right-handed.) But now I derive great pleasure from writing poetry and music and doing all those creative, artsy things that I shunned for so long. It's a good thing, too, because it's the artsy activities that I am best at, I think. Mostly, I have concentrated on songwriting, and I have written over 30 songs to date. Sometimes my poems would become songs when I put them to music, but mostly I simply wrote songs -- the words to songs don't necessarily have to be great, and you can be more free-flowing with rhyme and meter than you have to be in writing poetry (at least poetry that's any good, by my standards). More recently, in the last year or so, I've written more stand-alone poems, which I know I will never put to music. It's not that I'm swearing off songwriting, I see this more as a branching out. I feel I have no innate capacity to create stories, so I won't ever become a novelist (though I've thought of ideas for novels, I don't see that I would ever make those ideas into stories). At root, I'm more of an idea person, which is why poetry attracts me (poetry is just a theme expressed with style, no story or characters to create). Unfortunately, I think my poetry tends to be too intellectual or philosophical sometimes, but that's the way I am and there's no use trying to change it.

Peter Saint-Andre > Journal