It’s World Poetry Day, a perfect opportunity to step back from news and headlines and enjoy some inspiring content… or create your own. Some personal thoughts on the matter on March 21, 2018
With our public space so suffocated with negativity and disheartening news, we could all use some way to counterbalance the dreary Croatian reality – some food for the soul, so to speak. World Poetry Day, held each year on March 21, provides us with a great excuse to turn off the news and set our newspapers aside, reaching for some more uplifting content instead. How long has it been since you’ve flliped though a poetry collection? No need to roll your eyes at me, as I’m sure we all have a favourite poet or can cite at least a couple of verses from memory. And after you’re done reading… how about turning the tables and creating your own little work of art?
In collaboration with Julius Meinl, certain Croatian cafés and bars mark World Poetry Day each year by allowing their customers to pay for coffee by writing a poem. It’s a bit too late in the day to point you to your local café, but I’ve always found it interesting how many people refuse this delightful offer, stating they’re not really good at writing, not being creative types and all. Who’s to say? You might as well give it a shot. Here’s a little personal story about how I accidentally ended up trying my hand in poetry, with no plan or pretension:
I’ve been dabbling in writing since I was a little girl. My dad would be happy to inform you he’s the one to take credit for that; every academic achievement of mine since I first started school 22 years ago has unmistakably been followed by an “it was me who taught her how to read and write”. This has long been a running joke in my family, but I can’t say it’s not true – when I was only three years old, he would take me to the park and trace letters in the sand with a stick, patiently repeating the process until it all clicked into place for me.
Ever since I first realised the alphabet was, in fact, a playground in itself, I’ve been jotting down ideas, thoughts, creating characters and stories, with bouts of inspiration coming in waves. An honourary mention goes to the award-winning piece about my beloved lion cub plushie I wrote in 5th grade – a proper child prodigy from the youngest age. You gotta start somewhere, right?
Jokes aside, I haven’t dropped the habit to this day. Even though I’m not a journalist by trade, in some mysterious way, life led me to become a full-time writer here at TCN, where I have the privilege to force my literary displays of frustration provoked by banks and office clerks on you poor readers. You’ll find me happily scribbling away in my downtime as well, keeping my incoherent fragments and streams of consciousness private. For a long time, the only genre of literature I’ve never tried my hand at was poetry. While I’m an avid consumer of poetry, I’ve often found myself keeping a safe distance from any attempt at penning a couple of lines. It’s the most intimate and raw form of expression, and I thought it took a special kind of person – an artist, even – to create something of worth in that particular field.
And then, about a year ago, I noticed those incoherent fragments of mine becoming even more so, sentences getting shorter, thoughts and notions dissolving on paper like they were about to vanish into thin air. Poems, coming to life right in front of me, line after line, without any intention on my part. Chance had it I saw an ad for a poetry workshop that same week, and things clicked into place once again – I signed up, with no goals or aspirations apart from an overwhelming urge to simply create. And let me tell you, it was an immensely rewarding experience: the five of us, meeting with a phenomenal mentor once a week, writing, sharing, dissecting each other’s lines. I’ve learned it takes much more than talent to master the craft – it primarily takes dedication, incessant practice, and a systematic, ruthless approach to one’s own work. There’s no mercy when it comes to editing; every piece you produce will be dear to you, and you’ll have to grab a pen and attack it anyway, eliminating letters and words and entire verses until all you’re left with is one good line you can build on.
I still believe not everyone is destined to become a poet – me included – but I’m convinced every person out there has a poem or two hiding within, waiting to be put to paper. And considering March 21 isn’t only the beginning of spring, but also the World Poetry Day, is there a better and more inspiring time to start?
Grab a pen and paper – typing is also an option, but there’s something incredibly satisfying to being able to scribble and cross out words by hand instead of just hitting delete-delete-delete. Describe something you see in front of you, write about someone you know, stare down that blank surface and use it as a cathartic channel to relieve your mind of whatever’s bothering you at the moment. (Daily life in Croatia should provide you with plenty of material.) It doesn’t have to be perfect – it doesn’t even have to be good – think of it as a little mind exercise. You’re not competing for the national poetry award, just quietly creating something of personal value. Share it with someone, keep it to yourself; it doesn’t really matter as long as it brings you some joy.
Oh, one more thing: the next time you see an ad for a creative workshop and think ‘I wouldn’t be good at this’… ignore those thoughts and apply anyway. We’re not necessarily speaking about poetry here, it could be any kind of creative endeavour that tickles your fancy and scares you simultaneously. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new, no matter how silly it may seem: try painting or embroidery, join a book club, start a book club in your local community (especially if you’re an expat – people are craving quality content and social activities!). You might find you’re much better at it than you first thought – and you also might end up with some new friends along the way. Win-win!