This blog was written by mentee, Sarane James who was inspired by our craft talk speakers, poet Samantha Thornhill and violinist Morgan Weidinger at the Poetry Workshop. Sarane is a fourth-year Girls Write Now mentee and currently a senior at The Bronx High School of Science.
Poetry hasn’t always been a kind medium for me. It always seemed like a stuffy art form that was too complicated and packed with obscure meanings for me to parse. Yet in the past few years, I discovered that poetry is possibly the most versatile and forgiving writing mediums a girl could ask for. I began using it as somewhat of a note-taking medium. When I write poetry, I don’t have to worry about perfect grammar or full sentences. I can just lay my thoughts on the page, then either revise later or let it be.
Despite the leisure I have come to appreciate from this genre, I still believed that this freedom only applied to freeform poetry. While sonnets and other forms of structured poetry sounded pretty, I still had only minimal success in writing them myself. The ode was a form of poetry that I had especially little exposure to. In fact, the only one I was familiar with was Ode to Joy, a classic Church song I learned as a kid. Technically, I knew what an ode was— a poem written in praise and admiration of a subject. The issue was that I had no idea what to do with that definition as a writer.
Our workshop helped to provide clarity on just that. Reading Pablo Neruda’s poem “Ode to My Socks” helped to ease my fears. The ode was dedicated to a seemingly inane topic: a well-made pair of cozy socks. It used bizarre imagery such as “goatskin and twilight,” “green deer,” and “fish made of wool,” and completely managed to tame the stuffy images that I had already conjured of odes.
Hearing our craft talk speakers, Samantha Thornhill and Morgan Weidinger, perform had cemented the ode as a genre I could truly appreciate. They gave it a new life that I could understand: music and spoken word. Watching them perform in tandem showed me the freedom and passion that could also be associated with odes. I have no idea what it is like to be a single mother, but Thornhill’s words were so full of both pain and joy that it felt as if I was right there with her, and Weidinger’s violin accompanied her with a song that was a rejoicing as it was regretful.
Later on, both artists also said something that I believe is very important. Thornhill described herself as having a writing part of her brain, and an editing part. Sometimes, these two parts fight for dominance, but to be effective writers we need to learn to separate them. You have to let the writing flow, and let the editor in you take over afterwards. This advice has been a crucial part of making odes less intimidating. In the end, odes are like any other form of poetry. They are not about impressive vocabulary and mystifying metaphors. They are about your passionate and sincere feelings towards the topic at hand, so let your feelings flow and beautify your ode afterwards.