Writing and Perception

I’ve been reading a lot of poetry and essays lately.  In appreciation of the poetry I’ve seen penned by many outstanding writers, I wrote the following poem called “Sharing Water” celebrating poetry.  It imagines a variety of powerfully written poetry and its possible effects on a reader.  When I wrote it, I was thinking of both emotional poetry written out of sorrow and emotional poetry written out of love, who might be writing some of it and how it effected me as a reader.  One of the things you soon learn as a writer is that if you show a dozen people a piece of writing, you will get a whole range of responses that reflect not only what you put in the poem, but also what people get out of it.  From this you learn that writing isn’t just a matter of putting some words on paper and having people retrieve the information.  It more a matter of an interaction or collaboration between the writers imagination and the readers imagination. Comments I’ve gotten about “Sharing Water” include a person who imagined I was writing about a single poem, a reader who imagined a large room with a warm fireplace, a fellow who joked that the Formica table in the poem might be my own table, and woman who imagined the title refereed to Robert Heinlein’s novel “Stranger in Strange Land.”  I had no idea when I wrote it that it might invoke such images. The imagery that was in my mind as I wrote it was somewhat different than the images in my readers minds as they read it.  This doesn’t make them wrong, and me right in our imagery.  It makes the written word something of itself that can mean a lot of different things to many different people.  It teaches us that written words aren’t just about writing and reading, they’re about perception itself.

Sharing Water

Words rich
With the sensual fabric of life
Full of emotions and heartbeats
Lounge on the page
Resting like a high mountain cat
Fur soft and thick
Deep in thought
Washing a paw
In whispers
Of fluid movement and lithe power

Words born of bone deep pain
Words written alone
In a room with nothing
But an old Formica table
A bare light blub
And a stubby brown pencil
Reach out in desperation
Plead for empathy
Cry for care
Eyes soaking wet
Or sit forsaken
Alone in a crowd

Words born of love
Words gentle and kind
Softly touch me
Welcome my soul home
From a long, long journey
On a straight desert road
With a cool cup of sharing water
Or brilliant and bright
Warm me inviting rest
In the afternoon sun
Golden and honest with joy

Nothing in this old world
Like a good poem
Written deep
From the human heart

Dewey Dirks copyright 2011

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2 comments on “Writing and Perception

  1. John says:

    Hi Dewey….. I think you are absolutely right. That gambit of emotions people can have from reading my own poetry is so incredibly various. And you never know what that reaction is going to be. And where did that reader get a Formica table from? I saw your poem as a tribute to poetry itself, a beautiful thing. You know you touched on the emotions that people can have and I have always said that if my words can make someone cry then I have used the talents God gave me correctly. And I’ve also always said that we poets don’t create emotions in people, we merely stand at a distance from the reader and poke their emotions that are already there with a pointy stick. That’s why the reactions are so varied. Every reader has his own experiences and emotions. You did a wonderful job on this Dewey. I think you are probably a genius.

    • Dewey Dirks says:

      Thank you for your kind words. In answer to your question, a Formica table is mentioned in the poem. Virtually all the responses I’ve gotten have been very kind and none were right or wrong. It is always astounding to me how much of writing is an interaction between readers and author.

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