Thursday, April 30, 2015

What Poetry Does

So I submitted ten pages of poetry to a competition recently and had to include a 200-250 word introduction. So I thought I'd share it with you here, too. Wish me luck!


I have always been jealous of what good actors can do with their faces. I think of the episode of The Office when Jim and Pam are at the hospital. Jim comes out of the hospital room to call a friend at the company picnic to say they’re not coming back. He looks at the camera, wide, shocked eyes starting to tear up, and you know they’ve just figured out that Pam is pregnant. All of this without words. Just faces.

Maybe poetry is just that: language’s facial expression. Maybe poetry is important precisely because there is so much that can’t be put into words.

It is important to dig in to poetry, to put it under the microscope at every angle. This is how you discover poetry’s internal organs. But I think it is also important to skim across the surface of a poem and let it leave you feeling slightly breathless.

My poems are an attempt at leaving the reader with a glimpse of someone’s face, like catching someone looking in at the window. I’ve enjoyed trying this in a variety of forms, including prose poetry. I believe poetry should be, like the best fiction, accessible, and like the best creative non-fiction, vulnerable. Whether based on actual life or an idea of real life, I believe the best poetry leaves you gasping with familiarity.

With this in mind, breathe carefully, but don’t blink.

Sarah Allen

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  1. I think of poetry as snapshots of life (as opposed to movies). Just those captured moments. And, yes, a good poem leaves me gasping. Best of luck with your competition.


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