Allow me to introduce you to Phyllis Bohonis; a fellow Ottawa writer I met when we were both attending a writing workshop in Kingston held by Brian Henry.
I liked Phylllis immediately and, when she read her work-in-progress, was both impressed with what she already had done as well as with the way she handled the suggestions which were offered to her; a strong writer willing to get stronger.
Also (as I’ve discovered to my delight) a writer who helps out other writers. So, without further ado, here is Phyllis’s guest post, “Why Can’t I Write Poetry?”
Poets always get it right. They have a knack for making the ordinary seem extra-ordinary; the mundane spectacular. After offering to write something about winter, I sit at my keyboard looking for words to express the sounds, fragrances and sights of the season. I know them. I live them. I experience them every year. My mind keeps drifting to lines by poets and lyricists. Difficult for a prose writer to accept.
Poets bring to life the sound of sleigh runners gliding across soft snow, the crunch of skates biting into hard ice. Church bells and sleigh bells never ring so true as in a well-written poem. I feel the warmth of the fire crackling in their hearths and the deadly breath of arctic driven winds pounding mercilessly at their windows. Even the sound of a log burning, breaking and settling into the coals can add a sense of wellbeing on a cold winter night in their verses. Add to that the fragrance of roasting chestnuts and glistening Christmas trees and it may not matter that spring is months away – so they tell us.
My daughter used to enjoy cold crisp winter nights when she would take her Alaskan malamutes out for a brisk run through the fields behind her home. She always commented the sky was blackest and stars the brightest in the dead of winter. Her thoughts were her own as she listened to nothing but the breathing of the dogs and shushing of the sled runners. Now if I was a poet, I could really write a verse or two about that.
My son talks about snowshoeing in the great outdoors and the sounds his steps make crunching and gliding, crunching and gliding across the show. He loses himself in the timbre of branches cracking from the cold and in the lonesome cry of wolves echoing in the distance. The solitude of a forest in winter is like nothing on this earth to soothe the soul and relax an over-worked mind. How I wish I could put his thoughts to poetry.
Alas, I’m locked in the body and mind of a prose writer. I can set a scene with Mrs. Claus getting Santa ready for his long trip. I can write a hypothetical conversation among the three wise men as they travel over the desert to Bethlehem. I can write a murder mystery set in a log cabin with fierce Arctic winds banging out a ghostly medley on the loose shutters. What I cannot do is instill the quiet sounds of winter, the aromas of the season nor the spirit of happy times quite the way a poet can. I can write about winter but not the essence of winter. Oh, to be a poet.