September 26, 2020

Defining and Defending My Poetry


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By H.M. Peter Westin

I enjoy writing poetry. If I had to define the style of poetry I write, I would characterize it as ‘free verse’. Free verse poetry typically has no rhyme scheme or stratified stanza style format. The words flow freely and the line breaks come, with practice, from the natural flow of the language, often to emphasize specific words. The words used are carefully chosen to facilitate the flow (natural rhythm) of the poem, while creating unique and interesting images. To say this is not to suggest that what comes out at first-effort is what remains. A careful read through might detect imprecision in words choice and might commit the poet (me) to searching out that true and precise replacement which will strengthen the poem and transmit the intended meaning more clearly. Clarity, therefore, is an important aspect of my poetry.

Many of my poems focus on the theme of ‘nature’. Others examine the relationships which exist between people, or people and their environment. I do this from my own background, which is a ‘Christian’ perspective on life. Some of my poems are longer poems, in which the subject chosen is prodded and viewed from a number of angles. The focus of these poems is to elicit a response from the reader by engaging them in a journey of discovery. Some of my poems are quite short, from three to five lines. Many of these focus on the ‘realities’ of life. In the three line poems, there is often a couplet, set somewhat apart from the third contrasting line through the use of a colon or semi-colon. My poetry often contains a bit of a twist, or unique use of language at the end, that catches the reader a bit off guard, or by surprise, and helps give the poem the depth that requires a reader’s thought and personal response. More of my recent poetry has contained a more overt expression of my Christian principles and beliefs, although I prefer to render these by mixing them in to the glimpse of reality that I weave in words on the page. For me, poetry must exist beyond the words on a page. They have their full significance when they enter the reader’s mind and become entwined in their thoughts. They are most successful when they leave some imprint on the heart of the reader.

I employ a variety of literary devices in my poetry, including the use of metaphors, alliteration, and word images. Although I write for others, I need to be satisfied with what I create before I can take steps to share the work. I can suffer from ‘dry spells’ where I lack the necessary drive and desire to write. These usually do not last for long periods. In this sense, I see my poetry as ‘inspired’. Having said that, on occasion I have forced the issue by deciding in advance that I will write a poem and have chosen a topic that I will write about. Some of these have worked out quite well, but I have noticed that these tend to be poems that thrive only after numerous revision attempts. Usually my poetry flows naturally when I sit to write. Sometimes my writing will be sparked by a single word or image. Quite often, my title is the last thing that comes. Several of my shorter poems, however, begin with the title and then proceed from there.

H.M. Peter Westin is a Caymanian and resident of the Cayman Islands. He is a teacher, writer and poet. He wrote a book of poetry with another Caymanian resident, Brenda Quin, called “That Small Voice”. He is currently head of the Cayman Writer’s Circle.

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