Three Lines and 17 Syllables


I’m on a poetry kick lately. Since getting back to work, my sense of creative feeling has been reignited once more (what I had hoped would happen). After 3 or so weeks within returning I was hit with my next short story idea, and I’ve even begun to inch my way back to the poorly neglected 3rd draft of my novel.

As I stated in this previous blog, I don’t identify as a poet. I appreciate the medium, immensely. I will never fully understand poetry. I will never truly be able to express it properly, but I do enjoy it.

Which got me thinking, when did this appreciation start? In my youth, I recall being the weird one in class, happy to seek out Poe with total enthusiasm (still do, truth be told) and Frost, and Yeats, etc. Although, I don’t mean to misrepresent myself, my knowledge within the realm of poetry is decidedly shallow. If you will, I posses the “greatest hits” of poetry references.

But when? I saw the latest trailer for IT 2, soon to be released (and for which I am very excited) and the memory hit me like lighting. The first poem I ever read and fully understood was found in one of my favorite novels, IT, by Stephen King.

Let me clarify, I was reading full-length adult novels at a young age. Looking back on my childhood, I know see evidence for hyperlexia, an ability to decode symbols (letters and/or numbers) at a young age. It has nothing to do with intelligence (we think, hyperlexia is not a recognized disorder but the evidence is mounting) but it is a handy skill, like having a photographic memory. IT was published September 1986, making me a few months shy of 6 years. I believe I read IT sometime between ages 9 – 10 at my public library. I remember clearly IT, the novel, taking awhile to get through because first, the book is massive, but more to the point, I had to traverse 20 or so minutes of walking to get to my local library every day – as a child I wasn’t allowed to check out those novels, or some such silly rule. But, I could not be stopped from coming in and reading.

What inspired me the most about the haiku, and allowed me to retain it, was the poem’s beautiful simplicity. The haiku is written by Ben Hanscom’s character to his crush, Beverly Marsh, in the novel IT:

Your hair is winter fire,
January embers.
My heart burns there too.

Goddammit, isn’t that beautiful? And creative? And passionate? And to the point? And perfectly encapsulated in 17 syllables? While other readers may take these 3-lines for granted, I’m over here getting my brain wrecked.

I will never be able to do that, write a poem like that. This poem incorporates the seasons, temperatures, and physical characteristics as it relates to feelings for another human being sincerely, almost effortlessly. This is the kind of creativity people take for granted, that’s how easily understood and relatable this 3-line poem is. Kind of like how people bitch when their latest and greatest, shiny gadget isn’t as fast as they think is should be. We take these gifts of human creativity for granted and it pisses me off.

No one can write their same story twice. If I were to lose my novel is some freak digital accident of irreversible circumstance, I would have the basics of my work, I would have the core of the story, but the retelling could never be the same.

Sigh. This blog is turning into an unintended rant. I just wanted to point out that inspiration often comes in surprising forms. There’s no way I could have expected to be inspired by a poem, found in a classic horror novel (made over in movie form a few times), that would, in fact, influence my own work. Three lines and 17 syllables worth of inspiration. I sometimes ask myself, is my work saying what I need it to say? Am I using the best forms of expression with the least amount of words?

“My heart burns there too.” Damn it. I feel like I’ve been waiting to hear those words all my life, not just read them.

How the hell did King evoke that? Was he trying? Total accident? Only he would know.

There are several examples of writers who dabble in poetry within the context of their fiction. Look at Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Tolkien loaded his work with poetry, he was known for it. Look at George RR Martin and Game of Thrones, poetry and verse are easily found. And those are just the ones that came to mind without trying.

What was an unexpected source of inspiration for you? What surprising element has stayed with you? Spoken to you while working? Share your thoughts.

Christina Schmidt, MA