Dark and Stormy – A Poetic Mess
Music Credit: Rose (Prod. by Lukrembo)
Hi Pen Pals, I’m Jyn Arro and you’re listening to A Poetic Mess, the podcast where we turn the beautiful and ugly messes of our lives into poetry.
In today’s episode our topic is storms.
At the time of my recording this episode, it has been down pouring all around me and across the country. I’m sure many of you may also have been startled in the middle of the day or woken up at night by those blaring flash flood warnings on your phones. I know they’ve for sure given me as bad of a scare as the thunder and lightning does sometimes.
I hope those listening to this are safe and well as we go through monsoon season which technically doesn’t end in Northern America until the last day of September, but, with the way things have been going, the weather is more unpredictable than ever.
With that said, let’s pull out our pen and paper, notes app, or keyboard if you’re a typer as I sometimes am… depends on whether or not my fountain pens have been freshly filled haha.
Storms as a focal point for our writing today, this multifaceted and tricky thing that has been used in so many different ways creatively, can be tackled from a lot of completely opposing angles in our poetry.
One can be very literal, describing storms from our artistic perspective but even then the mood will depend entirely on whether our personal experiences with them have influenced us to write in wonderment or terror of storms.
Was a dark and stormy day Over all a coat of gray That merged into the night Striking trees with spears of light Perhaps some it does fright But in rain I know to play To catch droplets on my tongue Be watered like a flower And when the thunder cracks Rush to shelter with a laugh With a cup of hot tea Watch the earth turn a lush green
That was a very positive poetic spin on a stormy experience and I pulled from the cliche: “It was a dark and stormy night” and only changed the wording a little in the first line to fit my needs. And this is a take I’m more naturally inclined to, because even though I’ve been through some extremely scary storms that broke the windows of my house or rained down hail the size of hockey pucks… even then, I love the rain.
I absolutely adore dark, gloomy days when the sky is filled with clouds of shades of grey to almost deep black. The sounds of rain pouring and the thunder and lightning that come with it feel powerful to me in a magical rather than a frightening way, overall.
But, I know for certain there are people who do not care for the rain, much less full blown storms, at all. And I can completely understand that, for me it’s a case of living somewhere extremely hot and sunny, that is prone to droughts so monsoon season is always desperately needed where I am, particularly in recent years. Which, in turn, influences my highly idyllic view of storms because I associate them with relief from the constant dryness, the earth around me turns green for at least a little while, and we all dread the return of when all the plants and grass start dying and the sun scorches us with 100 degree weather again.
Our local environments are not to be underestimated as far as the role they play in our creative practices and imagination.
However, I can pull from the downright bad and awful times I’ve had in stormy weather to offer those of you who associate it with fear and destruction some more inspiration that you might feel more inclined to use.
Was a morning I felt as gray As the foreboding sky that day Would that I had stayed away Stayed in bed to rest and lay But I thought I could find a way For the storm I was easy prey The wind haunted me like a ghost The rain pricked like ice thorns The thunder scoffed at my pathetic try The cloths on my back, no longer dry Had I not been too cold to cry A storm would have brewed in my eyes
Completely different mood to the first poem I wrote for this episode. Polar opposites in tone and mood. I used an experience I had when I was a freshman during my university days as inspiration. It was pouring down rain and the wind made it ten times worse, my umbrella got flipped inside out, and my class was on the opposite side of campus from the dormitory I was living in. And, in hindsight, the situation wasn’t physically so bad – you know, water dries and umbrellas can be fixed or replaced – but I was mentally in an unhealthy headspace and anyone listening who is familiar with mental health struggles knows that something seemingly small like getting caught in a rainstorm for even a short amount of time can set off a negative mental or mood reaction that goes into a downward spiral.
So, my poem conveys not only the tangible parts of this memory; the color of the sky, the incessant wind, the way the rain felt on my skin, the soaking of my clothes… but also the intangible emotions I went through then and presently ascribe to it when looking back.
I communicated my regret, sense of defeat, humiliation, distress, and sadness. The wind is obviously not ghostly, the rain is made of drops and not thorns, thunder can’t scoff at me but these relatively simple words clearly frame this storm differently from the joyful and free-spirited way I framed the storm in the first poem. Language doesn’t have to be complicated or overly complex in its application to effectively express ourselves.
And some of you may have even more volatile or heavy language you would use in a poem about storms, particularly if you’ve been through a terrifying drive through hard rain, been impacted by dangerous hail, or destructive flooding – the list goes on and on and I want to make sure to note that it may not be a topic that instills pleasant feelings for many.
I’d also like to discuss examples of how we can use the topic of storms in non-literal ways in our poetry. As in, a storm that stands in our writing as a metaphor that alludes to a more obscure or hidden meaning. There is a poem in the second part of my collection, Book of Mirrors, that’s titled Stormborn:
All that ever trickled Eventually became a pour What you know as rain Can soon become a storm
Short and sweet but also very cryptic as it doesn’t have any evident meaning. This is the kind of poem that gives so little explicitness or context that it, intended by the writer or not, allows the reader to interpret the lines by projecting their own personal feelings and assumptions onto the poem.
Personally, I don’t need my readers to know the original intention I had as the author, because I want those who read or listen to my works to see reflections of themselves in my writings. But for the purposes of this podcast I will dissect the meaning behind Stormborn that I had in mind when I was originally writing and editing it.
The first two lines: All that ever trickled / Eventually became a pour – were my way of taking the artistic liberties to say: what once was small and insignificant went through the process of becoming the monumental, impressionable forces of nature we see today.
That’s followed by the last two lines: What you know as rain / Can soon become a storm – what of yours you currently know to be ordinary or humble, can become something that exudes greatness or power just like that of an awe-inspiring storm.
Figurative language is a favorite literary tool of mine, although that may just be because I have an overly active imagination and an inclination toward the dramatic and over-exaggerated – but I don’t care haha! I love to have fun with it and a lot of people already don’t understand poetry nor do a lot of those same people have any intention of trying to so you might as well play around with allusions and metaphors. Don’t worry too much about whether or not others will comprehend your poetry as you do because no one will ever see our art in the way we, as its creators see it. So, release yourself from the impossible pressure of writing poetry that is universally understood.
There is also something to be said about art being something everyone can and should participate in, but your own personal art does not have to be made for anyone other than yourself. When I attended university, I majored in Media Arts and Practice and I remember being given the critique at one point that you have to keep your audience in mind in your art, and, this is my ultra-independent stubbornness speaking but: I create for myself first and then I see what I’m ready to let go of to be consumed by others.
Poetry, in particular, has a raw and intimate nature. I’ve been writing stories and poems since before I learned proper spelling haha, but I’ve only recently begun to share some of what I’ve written publicly. And even then, it’s curated to what I feel comfortable sharing because there are also pieces of art, stories and poems that still belong only to me.
I don’t know if you, the person listening to this, are wanting to start or maintain a private poetry writing practice or one day write and publish your own poetry collection. But, the way I see it, your art is an extension of you, your creativity, and your mind, first, even if one day you decide to turn it into something for others.
So, what I’m saying is: if you want to write a super, cryptic stormy poem with an illusive meaning few people beyond you will understand – go for it!
It was the day the keeper left the lighthouse The first in so long that they took time To explore the blooming flower fields So enraptured by nature's beauty They failed to see her gathering clouds By the time they heard the sky rumble The ocean had already begun to thrash Were the heavens so angry, the lightkeeper thought For taking a moment free of toil Was thunder their manner of scolding And the rain their chosen punishment When the storm and all good sense were gone Though the sea again a gentle hum The keeper of the lighthouse there forever stayed
Thank you for listening [or reading] and I cannot wait to continue to write with you, my fellow poetry lovers and pen wielders. Please share your poems with me on Twitter or Instagram using hashtag #apoeticmess. And you can stay in touch, be in the know as soon as my first book, Book of Mirrors, comes out, and read my poetry and other works @ JynArro across all social media platforms and jynarro.com.
You can support the podcast and my work at paypal.me/ByJynArro.
Till next time, this has been A Poetic Mess.