Ars Poetica: A Girl Called Poetry

Sam Rose


I. The Cottage

THERE IS A GIRL CALLED POETRY who lives inside my head, in a beautiful cottage I dreamed of living in as a child. The cottage has a thatched roof and it stands next to a river with a gently bubbling waterfall. The water is clear, and surrounded by all manner of nature—trees, plants, bushes, flowers, birds, butterflies. The cottage sits in solitude, and it seems to me to be the most calming place in the whole world. It’s the perfect place for Poetry to live. But if Poetry ever needs to go anywhere she has a chauffeur to drive her—because that’s what I wanted for myself when I was seven and devouring Enid Blyton books. Poetry remembers this without me telling her, because she adores childhood and dreams. But she can just as easily dim the lights, pour herself a large whisky and write a harrowing tale of ghosts and murder. Poetry has many different moods.

II. The Look of Poetry

Poetry dresses in bright colors—layers of patterned skirts, long-sleeved t-shirts under short sleeves, large floppy sunhats. She dislikes the constraints of socks and shoes, and will go barefoot everywhere so she can feel the ground beneath her. She is doe-eyed with soft, pouty lips. She is beautiful, but in an understated, unexpected way. She can change her look for any occasion, and she practices yoga and meditation. She is flexible and thoughtful as she takes in the world around her. She speaks in metaphors and handwrites letters to her friends and relatives—even the ones she doesn’t get along with. She is not perfect, but she always behaves and looks like the person she feels she needs to be. Often when Poetry looks in the mirror she sees her cuts and bruises, her scars, the parts of herself nobody has touched for so long, the barren stretches of flesh she has kept hidden. But sometimes she looks in the mirror and she puts on her make-up, in search of her perfect self and all the possibilities of the person she could be.

III. The Nature of Poetry

Poetry is kind when she wants to be. She will tend to your wounds but she will take a good look at them first. Before she gathers the antiseptic and the bandages and cleans you up, she will grab your injured hand and pull you close. She will study the cut, determine how deep it is. Squeeze your flesh a little to see a drop of blood seep out. Maybe she is making sure it is the color she expected it to be. She is no nurse but she can pretend. You might tell her it hurts but she knows that already. She knows what hurts. It’s what she lives for. She could have warned you not to use the knife that way – she’s seen this before. She’s seen everything before, but each time she looks at something, each time she experiences something, she looks at it in a different way. She owns several pairs of glasses because sometimes she is short-sighted and sometimes she is long-sighted, and sometimes she wants to look at things in black and white, so she has pairs of sunglasses too, and even a pair of rose-tinted glasses for those days when she just wants things to be cheerful.

But her days of being blindly cheerful are over. She is still happy, but she is experienced, and she is realistic. She doesn’t lie, and if she does, it’s only because lying is sometimes a better way of telling the truth. She is always honest and open, but she is creative with her honesty. She has nothing to hide, and if being honest will benefit herself (which it almost always does) or someone else, she is even more keen to speak her mind.

She keeps the windows open all over her house. Lets the outside world in, while letting parts of herself seep out. She and the garden exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide as she stands at the kitchen window. Sometimes she will stay indoors and simply look out, her feet rooted in her home where she is comfortable and alone. Other times she will step outside and water the flowers, sit and watch things grow, feel herself growing with them. She often goes out into the garden to meditate. She always tries to be mindful, as she sits cross-legged in the grass. She tries to remember that she, too, is nature. She closes her eyes and listens to the birds, feels the blades of grass and the insects tickling her legs and bare feet. She wants to feel what it is to be alive, but her darker side is curious about death, about the more sinister things in the world, about hardship.

IV. The Rules of Poetry

Poetry doesn’t like rules but she knows they are sometimes useful, so she abides to them when it suits her. She recognises the benefits of routine, of structure. She has her own habits but she tries to remember to experiment in everything she does. She adds new spices to her cooking. She cuts her own hair, pulling it into ponytails and chopping vertically at the ends, all different lengths, then pulling out the hairbands and letting her gentle curls cascade on top of each other. She loves how a method so simple can produce such a messy yet beautiful and unique result.

V. The Movement of Poetry

Sometimes when she sings—and oh, how she loves to sing—Poetry will sing a song she knows but in a different way—in a slower, lighter way, or with an unexpected twist in the tune. She fills the house with music, and will play any instrument, even if she isn’t very experienced in it. She loves to listen to music too, and she sometimes hears more in the gasps between a singer’s words than in the things they are saying. She finds meaning in the silence between the ticks of her grandfather clock. She craves quiet and order, but she also hums and whistles everywhere she goes—and that is many places, as she loves to travel. She enjoys the journeys as much as the destinations—the excitement, the anticipation. Sometimes she goes to the airport and gets on the next plane coming in. “Take me anywhere,” she’ll say to the staff at the check-in desk. “Surprise me. I don’t care where I go.” She has spent a week lying on a scorching beach, a weekend in a bustling dirty city, a night under the Northern Lights. She loves them all equally. But she is always happy to come back home, with souvenirs from the places she’s visited, and she doesn’t miss them because she can revisit them simply by closing her eyes.

Poetry loves her home. It fills each one of her senses, every room providing her with a different joy. Her kitchen smells of baking cookies, her lounge of incense. Everything is how she likes it. She lives alone and is independent, but she doesn’t get lonely. If she wants company, she will call a friend, who will always be happy to spend time with her. She is charming and wonderful to listen to. She has so many stories to tell, many of them unexpected.

Her bedroom smells of fresh linen, her crisp white bed soft and inviting, contrasting with the fluffy purple throw she keeps on top of it, only removing it to bury herself in it when winter comes. When she looks out of her bedroom window, her white curtains being blown through by the breeze, she can see miles and miles of fields. She is comfortable contained, and happy to roam free, depending on how far the mood takes her.

VI. Poetry at Work

On the other side of the cottage, at the front, is her library. The walls are lined with books—everything from adult fiction to literary journals, to recipe books, to phone directories, to her own books, both big and small. When she works creatively, she knows not everything has to be a novel. Poetry realizes that some things are better when they are tighter, tidier, more closed-in. But she also knows that even if she wants to create something big, she can start small. That’s why sometimes before she sits down to work at her desk, she will go into her bedroom and look out of the window. She takes something as a starting point. It could be anything—big or small, important or minuscule—and like a dot on the horizon so far away, it will take on a life of its own and expand, grow closer, become real, more tactile.

Poetry is just the right combination of raw, untouched truth and the search for the perfect word. She is five words instead of ten. She is short but as tall as she needs to be—she can still reach the highest shelf in the kitchen.

When Poetry wants to take a break from her cottage, she visits a hotel in the middle of the city. Sometimes she climbs out onto the window ledge, swinging her legs and holding on as she sits in the window and watches the people below. If she needs inspiration she will listen to their shouting as they walk home from work, as they walk their dogs, as they argue in the streets. Poetry sees and hears everything. Her powers of observation are second to none, and if someone tells her something, she always listens and remembers. But she isn’t very good at keeping secrets, and sometimes forgets the difference between dreams and reality, and whether things happened to her or to someone else, or if they never happened at all and she just imagined them.

VII. The Imaginings of Poetry

Poetry daydreams a lot. At school she was always being told off and called Little Miss Daydream. But she couldn’t help it. Her imagination was simply of more interest to her than math or history was. Now she pays more attention to the world, but still finds herself drifting off to another place. She brings herself back when she needs to research something—as already established, her main priority is to tell the truth.

Poetry will ask prying questions. She’s not trying to be rude or nosey – she just likes to ask the important questions, and look at the finer details. She is curious about people, and when they talk to her she will make them think about themselves. She will ask probing questions, and she will reveal a little of herself to help people find out a lot more about themselves—things they never realized before. She is both a psychologist and a friend.

Poetry does everything with enthusiasm, and she never says no to an invitation. She turns up to every event she is invited to, as well as some she hasn’t been invited to. She is often early, but she also enjoys sleeping and being leisurely. Sometimes she will have simply thrown on some clothes and run out of the door, while other times she will have spent a great length of time staring into the mirror, trying to get her eyeliner just right. Poetry is flexible and sometimes volatile, but she is dependable. Poetry is whatever you need her to be.


Return to Fall Issue Volume 11.1




Sam Rose is a writer from Northamptonshire, England and is the editor of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine. Her work has appeared in Scarlet Leaf Review, Rat’s Ass Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Haiku Journal, and others. She is a three times cancer survivor and is currently studying for her PhD, researching the role of poetry in psycho-oncology. Find her at her website and on Twitter @writersamr.