Mm. Gives you shivers, doesn’t it? Transcendentalism is a really long and complicated-sounding word to describe an American literary period in which writers strove to become one with nature and really find themselves and all that hippy nonsense. I know this because for my new job as a course designer for BYU’s Independent Study high school program, I am reading all about it.
Also, I am an English major.
In one of today’s readings, I read a poem by Walt Whitman (THE transcendentalist) I had never read before called “There was a Child went Forth.” And I loved it. It’s about a boy who goes around seeing all these marvelous things and meeting all these wonderful people and being in all these amazing places and becoming better for them. So I decided to write my own poem called:
There was a Rylee went Forth
And then I remembered.
I can’t write poetry.
I would much rather create long lines of well-crafted sentences than spend years trying to find that one word. Why not use all the words? Why not find music in the long and winding sentences of prose than attempt a sentimental structure of poetry that may or may not end up working anyway?
Don’t get me wrong–I adore poetry. Wordsworth and Whitman speak to my soul as if they were my own voice trying to express the beauty of nature.
But their voices are not mine. Nor is mine theirs.
My voice is casual–it’s conversational–it’s borderline irreverent. Wordsworth is a well of profound eloquence–mine is a bucket-full of sass:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats high o’er vales and hills
When all at once I spy a crowd
of delicious, cheesy Ritz Bitz.
Sure, my soul is moved when I walk down a tree-lit path and I’m so overcome with the beauty of the deep green against the clear blue sky and the deliciously fresh spring air that something wells up in my chest and all of a sudden it’s hard to breathe through all this gratitude. But I am not moved beyond words.
Apparently I’m just moved beyond poetry.
I try–I do. After reading Whitman today and walking home through that same tree-lined path and being overcome with all that same emotion, I decided to channel my inner transcendentalist and write poetry on a nice, sensationally lush patch of grass. After all–I was so inspired. It couldn’t be that hard to express myself through poetry with that much love-bursting flowing through my veins, could it?
Yes. Yes it could.
I tried. I took Whitman’s poem and began to simply model my own poem after his–I even began with the same lines and used same subjects and tried to make his words my own. Maybe I’m just impatient, but I just couldn’t get my words to have the same meaning or to convey what I was really feeling.
So I started this. A rant about my apparent inability to write poetry and express my immense satisfaction with this transcendentalist’s dream-come-true type of day. And you know what–it gets the job done.
Part of me wishes you could see what I saw envisioned in that poem of mine. It was beautiful–a tribute to the things and people and places that contribute to who I am, even if it is something that only stays with me for a week, like my obsession with X-Files, or something that serves as a constant reminder of who I am–a picture of the temple or love for my family.
So even if I can’t show you the poem that I want to write, I can tell you about it. I can tell you about how in love I am with this incredibly beautiful day. I can tell you about how happy my flowy pink and white striped skirt is making me as I lay here on my front lawn. I can tell you about how much I love poetry and how perfectly content I am to simply be alive and sitting in the sunshine.
Even if I can’t write poetry.