Two years ago, an old friend with whom I hadn’t been in touch since high school, found me on Facebook and contacted me. We first met when we were eleven years old and quickly became best friends. I went to her family reunions, and she accompanied my parents and me on our family vacations to Upstate New York. We saw each other every day, talked on the phone every night, and were generally inseparable. Somehow we lost touch after high school, and reconnecting after so many years, despite being a little scary, was filled with the hopeful anticipation of renewed closeness. While thinking about our “reconnection” this week, I realized that although there are hordes of poems about romantic love, I haven’t seen many poems about plain old friendship. An article on the Poets.org Website refers to friendship poems as the neglected cousins of love poems, and that certainly seems to be true although there is a tradition of poets writing poems to their poet friends or to poets whose work they admire (for example, the exchange between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell).
This week, in honor of my childhood friend, and in honor of your friends, let’s write friendship poems. The big caveat is to be very wary of sentimentality (a.k.a. schmaltziness, sappiness, corniness, over-romanticizing) – carefully distinguish between sentimentality and poetic sentiment – excessive sentiment is sentimentality and very much a negative term in literary criticism. Keep in mind that movies, children’s stories, and greeting card verses may be able to get away with sentimentality, but a poem can’t. So … stay objective, watch out for overuse of complimentary adjectives, and don’t “wax poetic.” Describe your friendship as it is or was, approach your friendship from unexpected perspective, let your poem take you somewhere you didn’t plan to go, and be sure to observe the old poetry “maxim” – show, don’t tell.
Ideas for Writing:
1. Write a poem about a very special friend, old or new (and by the way, that friend may be furred or feathered),
2. Write a poem to a friend (you might try an ode for this one or perhaps a prose poem in letter format).
3. Write a poem to your BFF (that’s the current text/chat acronym for “Best Forever Friend”).
4. Write a poem about reconnecting with an old friend after many years. (How are your lives different? Can you reclaim the old closeness? What hasn’t changed? What has?)
5. Write a poem about an imaginary meeting with a friend you haven’t seen in years.
6. Write a poem about a friend who betrayed you.
7. Write an elegy to a friend who has passed.
8. Write a poem to a poet whose work you admire.
And just for fun (remember this friendship classic?) ...