Poetry’s Creative Reach

During one of our critique group meetings, the discussion veered off feedback and onto the topic of “what inspires a creative work?” Responses to the question ranged from rain or dreary weather to physical activity (such as mowing the yard or walking) to reading a written work to listening to music to viewing visual art. Well, we eventually got back on track with dishing out feedback but that discussion stayed with me and caused me to wonder if any creative works had inspired other creative works. And following that thought was, I wonder if poetry (what with it being National Poetry Month) had inspired any creative works? When I found myself with a few free minutes, I tinkered around on the Internet in search of answers to my wonderings and discovered that yes, indeed, creativity had inspired creativity and poetry had influenced other art forms.

You may be as surprised as me to learn that some poems have inspired songs, musical compositions, paintings, novels, and more. For example, did you know that The Charlie Daniels Band, influenced by the poem The Mountain Whippoorwill by Stephen Vincent Benet created The Devil Went Down to Georgia, a song that hit number one on the country and pop charts? (See http://www.songfacts.com for a detailed list of more songs inspired by poetry.)

And did you know that many painting and other visual art classes use poetry to jumpstart the creation of visual art works? Favorite poems used in this exercise include works by Dickinson, Shelley, Carroll, Stevenson, and Wordsworth. The famous English painter/artist/illustrator David Hockney openly credits Whitman and Cavafy for inspiring many of his paintings and etchings.

As a novelist, I cannot ignore the influence poetry has had on a long list of novelists and short story writers. And the one poet who has exerted the greatest influence on longer form writers? The original Bard himself, William Shakespeare.

All of the information I discovered on poetry’s influence on other creative works was fascinating and as I signed off the Internet to turn to my own writings, I felt a challenge brewing in me. Dare I read one of my favorite poets’ works (Langston Hughes, perhaps) to see what, if any, creative work it ignites in me? I think I will. What about you? Are you sensing the call to read a few lines by Neruda, Poe, Angelou, Brooks, Yeats, or Cummings to see what jumps off? I dare you.

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