Wednesday, August 27, 2008

introduction to poetry

Collected poems

I’m not really sure what I was originally looking for that afternoon out in the garage, but whatever it was, I never found it. Instead, I came across several ragged manila envelopes filled with handwritten bits and pieces of my poetry and prose from 30 to 40 years ago. For the next two or three hours I was absorbed in reading all those things and trying to comprehend that I had, indeed, written them.
I have no problem remembering those times of my life . My early twenties, dating, college, even high school and before. I can see my life as a stream of consciousness across an increasingly longer lifespan and for the most part I can retrieve a fairly clear copy of a specific memory. In fact, these long-term memories are more easy to call up than my short term or working memory I know all that but the reality for me is that sometimes I experience a strange detachment (or disconnect) when trying to experience an event or time from years ago. I look at the words , remember the time period but for the most part find it hard to put myself in that moment or even experience much of an emotional connection with these memories. I suppose I am just experiencing a repressed memory , for that matter.
Luckily , I am not really writing to answer the question of memory. It is interesting and , for that matter, I think with effort I might get better at reliving some of these times. I’m certain, I could develop more focused introspection ability and perhaps I will. What really interests me is how incapable I now seem to be at writing even a few lines of poetry. I read line after line that Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, sometimes cringing in disapproval sometimes nodding in appreciation. I was actually impressed a couple of times with a quick thought that , surely I didn’t write that!”
I got out a clean sheet of paper and a pen and set out to begin anew my poetry avocation/passion. Nothing much happened! I began a line with something like, “ I sit here tonight with pen poised and a mind as blank as my paper!. Me, the poet, actually couldn’t find any words to use, I continued pushing words around on the sheet, looking very much like a first grader sliding unwanted peas around his plate. Finally, I let it go and just read the poems the same way I would read Shelley or Keats, or, more likely, EE Cummings, with the one possible advantage being in a first name relationship with the author. I very tentatively concluded that poetry , like language acquisition, must have a developmental window of opportunity in which to be expressed in a life. Learning can happen outside the window but it is so much easier to do inside ! Another term I drag up from long lack of use, is ’zone of proximal development’ if I remember correctly. Again, there is a optimal time in a child’s life when they have the readiness , skills, etc to learn a task and the teacher is also in place and ready to walk through the learning with them. I can think of no more appropriate zone for learning poetry than during the loose and unstructured time of college. Idealism is at its height and responsibility and reality is almost nonexistent. Moods joyfully range from manic to depressive overnight and if you add love to this volatile mix, it is easy to see how you might get poetry, or a reasonable facsimile , there of.
I don’t know the answer to why I can’t extricate rhyming words at the age of sixty. Maybe I am trying too hard; maybe I’m not trying hard enough. I just thought of the similarity with my desire to do creative works as an expression of worship to God. I’ve often thought of doing paintings with a Biblical theme or message but most of my attempts appeared less than satisfactory until last Easter and a specific request to produce paintings for a Good Friday service at church. I suppose I need a mission or a challenge to push me or an incentive of some kind to pull me in the right direction. I will keep trying until I am either successful or have proven to myself that it is hopeless. While I am waiting for the outcome of this literary challenge, my goal is to put into some readable format the ‘early’ and so far only poems of Tom Hudgens. While I am at it, I also plan to include in this venture selections from the ‘Ostrich writings’ which I will explain later.
Who knows ? Before I’m finished, I may find new insights and abilities into this rhyming dilemma.
R. Tom Hudgens spring 2008

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