Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"....a lump in the throat."

Who can resist a wonderful autumn picture like this? When I discovered it among a group of many seasonal photos, I was drawn by the sunlight slipping through the trees. I had the urge to write a poem or paint a picture. Since I can't paint worth a darn, I'll probably try a poem. 

As so often happens, that thought led to another--about poetry. A few weeks ago, I read a book titled The Long Way Home by Louise Penny, another in her series about a Canadian detective. One of the characters in the story is an old woman who is physically handicapped, bitter at times and poignant at others, even bitter but she writes poems. She states more than once in the novel "Poetry begins with a lump in the throat." Other characters also refer to what Ruth said. That quote has rolled around in my mind ever since. It pops up at the most unexpected moments. It happened when I studied this photo. 

I loved what the fictional character said. Author Louise Penny put the words in this character's mouth so we must attribute the wonderful thought to her. Lots to consider in those few words.

Poetry and emotion belong together. Oh sure, you can write a poem without feeling anything but guess what? Your readers won't experience any emotion in it either. It will be words strung together to show us something but it probably isn't going to bring a tear or that 'lump in the throat' or even a good laugh. 

The 'lump in the throat' indicates to me that emotion in the poet is essential for good poetry. It's one reason that poems about our own experiences can show emotion. We lived it, we know what it felt like. I've referred many times to Ronda Miller's poem Moonstain. This one most definitely would have begun with the 'lump in the throat.'  I know that I had it when I finished reading the poem for the first time. 

If you're a writer who has trouble baring your soul in your writing, be it poetry or prose, it's time to work on getting over it. If you hide your own emotions, your readers won't get nearly as much from your words as they will if you let the emotion flow throughout. No, I don't mean getting sappy and overdoing it. Like all things, there is a fine line to what is done well and what is overdone. So, tread with care.

I know that 'poetry begins with a lump in the throat' is going to stay with me for a very long time. Maybe it will help trigger writing with emotion. I hope so. 


  1. True enough, Nancy. You are correct about many of my poems starting off with lumps in my throat - some of them still make me cry when I read them out loud. I'm working on it. It is certainly a cathartic

    1. I have always felt that writing about a difficult time in our life or a tragedy etc is a form of release. It definitely has been for me in more than one instance. Thanks for your comment, Ronda.