Sorry for the crickets guys. I’ve been swamped with school, and I was going to try to do this as a vlog before posting a text version, but my laptop decided to thoroughly f*** itself so I don’t know when that’s coming.
It doesn’t take an English PhD to figure out that poetry is nowhere near as popular as fiction. Pretty much everyone’s read a book or a comic or seen a movie outside of school, but I’ve rarely met anyone who can name a book of poetry off the top of their head. Most people studied poetry in school, hated it, and stopped. This, in my humble opinion, is a damn shame. Poetry is a medium that transcends time and space and the human condition in a way superior to fiction.
My mission this month is to get at least one new person to give a crap about poetry. So I’m going to tell you why I give a crap about poetry.
I have to admit, fiction was my first love when I was growing up. I didn’t have an opinion on poetry. I liked most of the poetry my teachers read to us in school, but it never blew me out of the water. My teachers tried to teach poetry writing, but I thought acrostic poems were dumb and shape poems were worse. And that was ALL WE LEARNED. I guess my teachers (maybe correctly) thought we were too young to understand more complex forms of poetry. I didn’t write poetry outside of school. It was just another thing I did at school, the worse kinds of thing in the mind of a seven year old. Two books changed my views on poetry; one was Sharon Creech’s free verse poem novel thing Love That Dog and the other was T. S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
I really hated Love That Dog the first time I read it. I had never seen anything like it. In my mind, it wasn’t even a book. I think it was my age, but I had no idea what was happening in the book the first few times I read it. But I received the book as a gift, and as a child gifts from my relatives were sacred. I kept it in my massive bookshelf and read it whenever I happened upon it. It wasn’t until probably the tenth time that I finally got it. It was poetry, that stupid, boring thing I studied at school! But it couldn’t be. It didn’t rhyme, and it didn’t look like anything. And it was a story. What? It was like whoosh. I finally got it. And I read it over and over.
Practical Cats was another story. I was obsessed with cats as a kid. Everything was cats. All my stuffed animals were cats. I drew cats. I wrote cats. I dreamt cats. That’s right. I loved cats before the internet decided it was cool. My mom took Practical Cats out of the library and I was in love. I think I made her read me the poems over and over until she got sick of it and then I just read them myself. I read that book so many times that I can still smell the pages and see the cute little ink drawings in the margins.
I started to write cat poetry.
That’s where it started.
The teenage years got a bit more…angsty. I’ve talked about my wasted youth before. I think it’s a given that I wrote bad teenage poetry. It’s not like I didn’t have real angst to write about, but that doesn’t mean my poetry was any better. Let’s be real here.
But it was never about being good.
I started cutting when I was eleven. Describing why you cut to someone who doesn’t is impossible. The only thing I can think of is that I had so much pain inside that I couldn’t deal with that making myself hurt on the outside was a relief. I couldn’t find a way to describe the emptiness. So I wrote poetry about it. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote to figure out why I was cutting. I wrote to show other people how I felt. I wrote because I had to get it out. Eventually, I was writing instead of cutting.
I know lots of people talk about music saving them, but poetry saved me.
If you do something enough, eventually you become better at it. I started sharing my poems. People started to like them. I thought hey, I might actually be good at this. I submitted poems for publication, and I was accepted. At fifteen I was published in NewTown Writers Off the Rocks 15. I was published at the same level as adults.
Whoa, I thought. Time to start taking this seriously.
UPDATE: Now with added vlog!