After retiring from the software industry, I decided to boot a second career as a creative writer. This didn’t seem that difficult. I had extensive technical writing experience, and I took college-level creative writing classes while at University of Michigan. How hard could it be?
Turns out, I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned about writing stories in the three decades following graduation. I’m writing every day and have several projects in the works, but it might be years before I develop some competence with this craft. I’m basically starting from scratch.
Surprisingly, my memory isn’t so poor when it comes to poetry. I still recall the elements of a poem—foot, meter, voice, clever line breaks, efficiency of language, and alliteration. According to William Carlos Williams, a poem is a machine, invented and created for one purpose, operating smoothly, with no redundant parts.
Actually creating a poem takes more than simple recollection of poetic elements and mechanical structure. Nonetheless, with some effort, I’ve created my first poem in decades. It’s not perfect, not by a mile. I’m no Robert Frost or Alan Ginsburg. Even though I’m aware of many weak spots, I’m calling it done.
A recent trip to Estes Park, Colorado, where I walked along the banks of the Big Thompson river, inspired me to write the poem. The Big Thompson has its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park. As it flows through the town of Estes Park, it alternates between rushing whitewater and sedate rippled pools dotted with yellow aspen leaves. Between Estes Park and Loveland, the river cuts through the Big Thompson canyon, the site of several devastating floods. The Big Thompson flows into the South Platte river somewhere east of Greeley. I tried to capture these phases of the river in the four stanzas of my poem.
Here it is, The Thompson River Flows.