Writing is just talking. There’s nothing to it, really. We all talk, at least sometimes. We all have something to say, at least sometimes. To take it further, we all have something interesting to say, at least once in a while. The rest of the times might just be our own silence, which is just as necessary. If we don’t ever stop talking long enough to listen, to take in new perspectives, forming new thoughts of the mixture, or just to experience, then we don’t really have much new to say, or to write, because writing is just talking.
Some might disagree that writing is just talking. I’ve proposed the simple truism before in conversation, and have even met violent opposition to the notion. I’d say it, casually, just talking like I am now, and then be verbally thumped on the head with a rolling pin. Truth, though evolving, is better understood through repeated example, so I’d hold my ground, perhaps suggesting it with different phrasing; talking is really writing. I’ve now several lumps and dents on my skull, but I remain undeterred, and I’ve also come to learn over the years that the truth is often painful.
When talking, unless you’re Shakespeare, we talk in prose. We might break things up into half sentences, or single words, mere bestial grunts in some cases, or barbaric yawps in the case of Walt Whitman– and that of my Uncle Louie, now institutionalized and kept sedated. We break all the writing rules that had been scribbled on the blackboard by our jiggling-posterior teachers. And that’s okay. Writing is still just talking, and talking is writing as well.
We don’t, however, unless Shakespeare, talk in poetry. It’s an oddity, but it’s the way many of us here first choose to communicate, to talk, with our writing. We write poems. Were we to encounter someone talking in poetry in our daily interactions, we might be tempted to thump this person on the head with a rolling pin. Clearly, the poor fucker is malfunctioning. A good kick might help as well, like when the Buick is only running on five cylinders instead of six, as expected. It’s for their own good, and borne of our general love for humanity. Love is often painful too.
What of these poems? What of these peculiar utterances that we offer as communication? If writing is talking, and nobody talks in poetry, then what the hell is it? If writing is talking, would poetry then be our unintelligible morning mumblings? The insane echoing shrieks and barbaric yawps of lunacy? Some might suggest that poetry is the prophetic wisdom of the soul. Let’s not get carried away. Most of us are nitwits, anyone reading this to be excluded from the generalization, of course, though I will, in fairness, include myself. I’ve much to learn.
My dog often barks at shadows. I’m just as likely to write a poem about that as about any other topic, finding some poignancy in staccato-yapping futility, and half-smile joy in its simple amusement. The meaning of a poem might not be clear to all, and that’s okay. I wrote it, and it isn’t necessary that the world understand or be moved by it, any more than I would expect everyone to notice when I walk into a room. Only my dog does that, and she barks at shadows.
Still, poetry too, is talking, just with a different voice, a part of us to which the everyday world had not been privy. If we aren’t too careful with our structure, phrasing, meter, and rhyme, the reader might even begin to figure out who we really are. A poem leaves an emotion behind, a part of our essence, a sticky residue on the shoes of anyone who ventures though its fields or down its wooded pathways. Poetry is our art, our purple-crayon impassioned scrawls, and art seldom comes with inscriptions to explain its meaning. Instead, we walk away with an emotion, be it simple or complex, or we sniff the air, trying to figure out who stepped in something.
Tho sometimes, poetry is a wish for approval, or praise, a mask worn for others, the words– a clever disguise worn over our true identity, or a brushy camouflage with only our red clown noses visible through the leafy foliage of words, and if not talking, and not our art, then what the hell is it, really, and for whom was it written? Who had been worthy of our willing subjugation, of our counterfeit brown-parchment pretention? I’d rather bark at shadows. That’s where all the best poems are found anyway. The dog knew all along.