Finding Poetry

Denise Ryan

I never have the pleasure of seeing poetry until too late, only when the world has no influence and my mind has time to think alone on the true nature of reality. As such, I strive to bring the unimaginable into my poetry and into the ordinary lives of the reader. A common stroll along an artificial waterway in one of my poems is transformed into a carnival de la salsa where ducklings wear sequins and dance the salsa. In another poem, a Parisian scene is filled with can-can dancers performing on a canal bank, swinging feathers back and forth alongside marsh plants in a chorus line, wearing “petticoats of weeds and black stockings.” In another poem, a pair of ordinary tights hanging on a wash line become a pair of youthful legs suspended in mid-air purely by suggestion.

Through my poems, I turn my eyes inward to find words to articulate the human condition. Themes are not my main focus, but crafting pure language to evoke an emotional surge in the reader, to recreate the experience of standing in front of a great work of art and somehow feeling physically a part of the painting. The composition comes to life and with every look, one sees more and more.

In much the same way, I allow the beauty of language to lead the reader to my narrative. I never allow the subject or form to weigh me down. You can’t tie a knot in a river. Poems must be organic and harmonious, never prompted, structured by emotional freedom. They should flow naturally like a river, unspoiled and unique, like a fractal. It is only when our mind, body and soul is in perfect alignment that poetry can safely flourish.

Nature as metaphor further grants my poems the freedom to be less self-explanatory. A poem too evident from the outset gives the reader no need to return. Metaphors attach an extra layer of fascination for the reader. Butterflies in one of my poems come to represent life taking flight from the head of a terminally-ill patient, rising in a “flightless, winged narrative, a sexless luminescence of light.”

Poets are not prophets or journalists, but artists of a visual language, words their medium. Fear of being misunderstood is the greatest obstacle, so one inevitability begins to write for an audience rather than for oneself. Working in this manner only creates predicable and static poetry, obsessed in getting our message across, as if this is the poet’s only pursuit, but the inner voice is the only voice the poet can truly trust.

Thus, poetry should be a lyrical gauze against the angst everyday life generates—death, love, loss, hope, renewal and grief are all touched upon at their most crucial stage in my poetry, forever expanding like the universe because poetry manages to compress more meaning, more depth of feeling, and more sheer natural beauty into a collection of fewer words than any other form of literature. This is why poetry will always and forever sit on the shoulders of Apollo.

Denise Ryan is the author of Of Silken Waters, published by Ara Pacis.