Poetry Is a Dangerous Game

A good poem is probably the hardest thing to write.  The temptation to superimpose grandiose symbolism over actual experience derails many efforts from the start.  And the tendency to invoke timeworn images along the way doubly endangers the artistic enterprise.  But the pitfalls do not end there.  Verbosity threatens at every turn.  And metaphor, although powerful, teeters between cliché and obscurity.  Strangely enough, the desire to write “a poem” also threatens the poetic venture.

Signposts Vol 1 book cover: arrow sign in a field.

More than any other style of writing, poetry strives to translate emotional depth into sublime linguistic expression.  The poet has a lot at stake.  Contrivance comes easily but can also take great effort.  Restraint proves difficult but does not guarantee profundity.  The paradoxical task of combining subtlety and force makes poetry a true art form, a meditation, and even a way of life for those who pursue its complexities.  As with the practice of any art, some periods are more productive than others.  Personal suffering often provides the impetus.

Shortly after college I spent a lot of time on the road, working various jobs to make ends meet.  I found myself gravitating toward poetic investigation, perhaps to reclaim the humanity my demanding schedule was eroding.  Brief windows of freedom produced a collection of succinct notes that conjoined to form Signposts Vol 1.  Prior exposure to traditional haiku influenced the structure of the poems while modern, urban existence guided the tone.  Completion of the book granted a feeling of accomplishment but soon heightened my sense of absurdity.  Who would read this esoteric volume?  And what effect could it possibly have on the world?

An artist may not understand holistically what they understand in part.  Eventually the limitations of their grand project become clear.  Aesthetic exploration falls under the dominion of another creative reality that sketches out billions of lives, tosses them away, and starts over.  All I had done was throw a few pebbles into the sea.  So be it!  I didn’t write Signposts to elicit an effect.  I was affected and engaged in a creative process.  Although some dismiss that process as self-involved, a preoccupation with “results” is hardly less indulgent, often stroking the ego with notions of success or significance.  Good poetry breaks all that down.  It reminds people of their mortality so they can affirm life honestly.


To read a description of Signposts Vol 1, visit Outliars.com


Signposts Vol 1 book cover: arrow sign in a field.
Those with a Taste for Black Comedy and Bittersweet Anecdotes May Recognize Their Demons

Author: Todd Garlington

Urban spectator, Inner space cadet

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