Barking at Shadows

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.

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38 thoughts on “Barking at Shadows”

  1. This was so neat. I am glad you parsed out your thoughts on that discussion we had the other day on writing which is a call to action vs writing for writing’s sake. (This was borne of that, right?) I am still thinking on it and may have something about it soon-ish.

    The best dogs bark at shadows.

    1. This wasn’t it.. but I supposed loosely related. When I write that, I suspect it will be much longer, and might not feature my dogs, as much as I do love them and their shadow-barking poetry. Thank you for reading this. Always appreciated 🙂

  2. Poetry, to me, is a lost art for the lost,
    How we know to keep a secret a secret;
    We spill forth words and verses,
    we’d never dare say, literally;

    Prose is the open letter who needs no envelope,
    Bringing life to feelings we’d otherwise deny;
    We cast secrets safely into a public eye,
    Unleashing them to the masses without fear;
    The ink tangled in symbols, metaphors and code,
    Beautifully encrypted whether intentional or not;

    Normally, sensitivity would warrant a flogging,
    If we were to speak them feelings any other way;
    So when interrogated by an audience about the meaning,
    we’ve the freedom to respond, “It was just about a tree.”
    Just a tree which provides shade only we stand under,
    If we are lucky enough to even understand it at all;

    Poetry provides a little something for everyone,
    A short film for an audience’s personal viewing;
    Using our words to paint their own perspective,
    To project it upon the canvas within their heads;

    It is a conduit for the often misunderstood,
    To be further misunderstood, but beautifully;
    Making poetry life’s greatest gift,
    As well as life’s greatest tragedy;

      1. Thank you!

        Yeah…. *them feelin’s… LOL..
        I don’t have my contacts in right now.
        I think that’s too funny, though!
        Half of me wants to keep that typo as paying homage to the south. :/

    1. Well, that was just awesome. The last stanza, both eloquent and accurate, as was the whole thing for that matter. I should have written that instead, but you did it first 🙂

      1. No! Listen, this is what poets and writers do — all artists, really.

        Particularly poets, they write things back and forth becoming inspired by one another.

        You inspired me, so I wrote it just for you. Just now. I felt like you might have needed something more than just a – “Hey man, cool piece.” Those can get so boring.

        Your writing inspires me a lot anyway. Artists should inspire one another. I hope you don’t take my comment as trying to you know… Get all “Prosey” in your word-space.
        If so you can delete it…

        1. Nope. I’m not deleting it. Because it’s awesome 🙂 I hope lots of people read it. And yes, we artists do get inspiration from each other.. I enjoy that nuance of interaction quite a bit. I’m honored that you posted a poem as a reply. Too cool. And it was good too, dammit. Even cooler. Thank you, Lauren 🙂

  3. Normally, sensitivity would warrant a flogging,
    If we were to speak these feelings any other way;
    So when interrogated by an audience about the meaning,
    we’ve the freedom to respond, “It was just about a tree.”
    Just a tree which provides shade only we stand under,
    If we are lucky enough to even understand it at all;

    I quit… Your post inspired this poem just now, actually! Thanks for that!

  4. Chuckles… please include me in the nitwit dialogs, verbosity of rhyme, and theatrical moments of speaking Shakespeare in jest throughout the house 😉 Love the post! Too funny.

    1. It’s fine.. Shh.. I’ve done so on occasion as well. How do you think I know about the rolling pin thumpings and repeated kicking? I can’t just make this stuff up! 🙂 Thanks for reading and for the fun comment. Good to meet you.

  5. I’d like to say something witty but after reading Lauren’s eloquent response, I fear I’ll just have to go with something simple. Food for thought, that’s sure. When I write, which isn’t every day, I write first and foremost for myself. I do read everything out loud and so I do speak poetry but not in the conventional sense. There’s a lot of emotion injected into many of my pieces and a whole heap of imagination. Given I’ve only been doing it for a few months, I am still finding my feet. It’s possibly not something I will continue as I realise that I mostly write to feed my own hunger and I can do this quite easily in a notebook by my bed.

      1. Ha ha. I asked the youngest son if I could read him one of my poems, ‘will it take long?’ I took this as a positive turn of phrase as he has told me that he doesn’t normally like poetry but mine are different. This is good, right? The alternative is bleak. I shall continue to write out loud. The black dog always looks at me and then around the room, confused by the fact that I’m the only one in the room. She then rests her head and resumes sleep.

        1. Lol. Yes, this is good 🙂 My son only likes the funny ones, and the dog(s) don’t much care one way or another, unless I get loud.. possibly thinking that I might be hollering about food.

          1. Awesome. Today, I was writing out loud and said, ‘RIGHT,’ the one remaining dog jumped up and ran to her bowl. Obviously I’m giving off the wrong vibes and the tone was completely off key.

          1. I enjoy poetry because back in the day
            you never really had a right to say the things you needed to say without facing major life/death consequences.

            Think of classical poets as if the were modern coders.

            I have a problem expressing my emotion.
            Poetry is a safe space to do that for me. Plus it sounds so pretty.

            1. Agreed, on all counts. In my writing is the closest one might come to knowing all of me, however indecipherable that might be 😉 I’ve thought of many of the classical poets, or even those modern, who wrote before the internet was a thing. They’d no way to share in the way that we do, and still they wrote, still they persevered, writing into the silence. Quite valiant, to borrow an old word.

  6. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud while reading this! Both truth and love (and anything else) is painful, especially when accompanied by a few thumps on the head…

    But your timing is priceless (from my perspective, of course), because I just wrote a post on a similar theme yesterday, using interpretation of art as an example. It isn’t yet published because the artist in question is a minor, and I wanted her and her mother to be comfortable with it before putting it out there, and I haven’t heard back yet… But still… we’re reading from a similar page in the book of life today… lol!

    As for speaking in poetry? I used to do it all the time. But being a cult leader is hard work, involving way too many expectations, and I developed severe performance anxiety issues… 😉

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