Sounding Like, or Finding One’s Voice

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

If there is one thing I do, it’s read a lot of poetry. I read so much that I keep the poetry section of my library in stock. At all times. I read so much that I have started quoting poets without meaning to do it. I read so much that I randomly mention poets and poems like they are friends I bump into on a regular basis. It’s gotten to the point where my mother starts rolling her eyes because I bring up random poetry all the time.

Now I’m going to preface this next part with a statement so friends who read this don’t start sending me emails and messages about how great I write.   I know I write good poetry and I am perfectly content with the bulk of it. Accolades and compliments come often enough that I don’t doubt myself, so friends, please feel free to pay attention to only this part.

If there is one thing I have found with writing and reading poetry on a regular basis, it is that I compare myself to other poets. I read poetry, and I’ll even do it with song lyrics I like, but I sit there thinking how amazing that poet said something and how in the world will I ever sound that good. Self-doubt is a lovely companion to writing. I think they go hand in hand. Almost like, if you don’t have self-doubt, you can’t honestly be a writer.

So I read poetry and wonder how I will ever be as great as some of the amazing things I read.  Currently, I have been reading a lot of poetry from Good Poems and Good Poems for Hard Times both edited and selected by Garrison Keillor. The selection comes from all those wonderful The Writer’s Almanac daily recordings. (I’m still so bummed that I can’t listen to that whenever I want these days.)  The poetry in the books is perfect for my life currently, but again, I can’t help compare myself to said poets.

I’m also reading a lot of Galway Kinnell, William Carlos Williams, Judith Viorst, e.e. cummings, and way too many others I won’t get into. Y’all know I love my poetry.

My friends and writing colleagues say I have my voice, but I don’t always hear it, and I want to ‘copy’ the greatness of these other writers. It’s not that I want to sound like them per se, but I want to have people read what I write and feel like I do when I read these other greats.  You would think that after the compliments of my friends it would be enough. And for the most part, it is. I think sometimes too, it comes from wanting one important person in my life to really appreciate what I write. And currently, I think he does. When he sees it.

I have so much that goes on in my head and I am forever trying to get it out.  I feel like I get one good poem a week out. This last week I think I got two. Which isn’t bad. I always surprise myself if I can push a few poems a week out.  I read something that Billy Collins said:  “One of the ridiculous aspects of being a poet is the huge gulf between how seriously we take ourselves and how generally we are ignored by everybody else.”

I feel that is incredibly true. I am quite serious about being a poet and what is going on, and if I can help someone with what I write, and will it matter. Will it all matter in the end. And part of that is making sure you hear me. Here what I am saying, be it in metaphor to use how you need it, or in completely plain speech. I want to say it the best way for me. The best way that you hear the ‘me’ in me. Which is why, while I would love to sound like other great poets, I still want to find my voice.

Obviously, I have enough of my own voice if other say they can see it. And this isn’t really self-doubt here so much as me just semi venting. And being totally blown away by some amazing poetry I’ve read this week. Current poems and authors that I’ve fallen in love with are: Passing Through a Small Town by David Shumate, In Paris with You by James Fenton, Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil by Bill Holm, Any prince to any princess by Adrian Henri, To A Frustrated Poet by R.J. Ellmann, A Millian Young Workmen, 1915 by Carl Sandburg, Ordinary Life by Barbara Crooker,  and lastly, Prayer by Galway Kinnell, which I will type up here because, wow….

 Prayer

Galway Kinnell

Whatever happens. Whatever
what is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.

And on that note, I shall end, because Galway says it all.

Happy writing to those starting April PAD (Poem a Day) with Writer’s Digest. I haven’t decided if I’m going to or not, but I’m thinking about it. Just to add to my general writer’s crazy. Cause I don’t have enough things to think and write about.

Writing on

Kate

5 thoughts on “Sounding Like, or Finding One’s Voice

  1. Haha. I love you ended by quoting a poet. Great article. I’m just starting out, but the self doubt regarding to poetry is truly a writing companion.

  2. Thank you, Katie.

    Your musings here remind me of something Ray Bradbury used to say: we need to read & write every day to find our own voice. “Stay passionate about words and writing.”

    On another point, I have had the privilege of hearing many of your poems. You have a rhythm and unique voice that I admire and appreciate very much.

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