While I myself am a perfectionist at heart, sometimes so much so that it is my absolute detriment, I have come to learn that imperfection in poetry is where beauty often abounds. As I have read through the submissions for our next un-themed issue (and as I am still reading – if you haven’t heard back yet don’t worry, I’m still wading through the submissions pool) I have noticed that the moments that grab me are the unexpected ones. My breath catches when I read a line that makes no sense yet makes perfect sense or a stanza that stops me so that I can examine each word once more. These are the moments that could be seen as imperfect in a poem, but that in the wild and unruly world of modern poetry create the spark that fans a thought or a word into a fiery work of art.
I can’t say that I really understood this concept until I took a poetry class in my final semester of my undergraduate degree. Up until this point poetry seemed like something to be admired from afar and handled with crisp white gloves and feather dusters – something to be kept behind glass and not messed with for fear of breaking something as fragile as a sonnet or a villanelle. I realized in this poetry class, however, that the fragility of poetry is a myth that I taught myself as I fed my poetic imagination a steady diet of classical poetry. While I greatly admire classic forms and structure, I realize now that my favorite poems are those that play with structure just enough to leave me guessing what comes next or that switch the form up just enough that it’s fresh and exciting. While knowing all the rules is important in writing poetry, it’s knowing when to break them, when to bring in the imperfections, that makes a poem magnificent.
So my tip to you, dear reader, is this: mess around with your word choice, your syntax, your synonyms and metaphors. Don’t just admire the poetry canon from afar, dive in and make ripples everywhere your mind travels. Perfection is overrated, anyway, and beauty lies in the crumpled up moments that you were about to throw away with yesterday’s newspaper but decided to take one more look at. There’s beauty in catastrophe.