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I didn’t give a shit about poetry when I first began writing poems seriously. By that I mean to say that I abhorred the idea of “modern” poetry and how easily people flocked to language like supermarket flowers. On a technical level, the prose were superficial and cliched meant to simply chase clout. And even in my minimal experience and nonexistent merit within the world of creative writing, I looked at the medium in its then-current state and simply said, “Yeah, I could do that—poetry is not that hard.”
I still maintain that philosophy, Faulkner be damned, and much like a good step-father grilling burgers for his family, I can cook up something decent when it comes to short stories (the metaphorical kitchen being the room where I write in this extended metaphor). In fact, the way that I got into writing poetry is quite funny and arguably quite toxic.
As I’ve mentioned before, I once took a poetry class in the last semester of my graduate program. I’d finished the prior semester with a lackluster novel writing course—mainly due to limited accessibility as it happened during the height of the pandemic—and was looking to expand my creative writing skills. Now, I was rather trusting of my English department’s faculty and so I simply expected smooth sailing, an overall enriching and eye-opening experience with opting to take the poetry class. Ironically, the class would soon prove itself to be just that for all of the wrong reasons.
Without naming names, my professor for the poetry class (alongside the virtual class setup) while certainly well-accomplished as a poet by their own accord was just a pain in the ass. For whatever reason, in a graduate-level program, my professor managed to simultaneously treat the class like third-graders who needed to be given information we’d learned, you know, back in grade school literature classes and like we were established professionals who were expected to know everything about advanced level poetic prose and obscure forms from around the globe. It was needlessly frustrating to say the least and, yes, my professor was that particular hardass that required webcams on at all times and for everyone to speak or risk failing within two weeks.
But all of the inconveniences aside, I can roughly recall something that that professor said to everyone in class that struck me on a personal level.
“Poetry is hard, and if you don’t think that it is then you can spend your time writing birthday cards for the rest of your life—I hear that they pay well.”
Well, it is the 2020s—so fuck you for romanticizing the idea of the “starving artist.” It may be a wild take but I will say it: I’m of the belief that one can become a powerful artist without compromising financial gain and stability and vice versa. I may not be a scientist but I’m sure that writing is a lot easier with lights on in my room during the night.
So, yeah, when I heard that, I made it a personal vendetta to shove a middle finger at my professor not by getting mad but by getting even. And, by that, I sought to get good (like a true gamer) enough at poetry to prove my old teacher wrong. Of course, some of you all might remember when I began 2022 with a rather vigorous writing and reading regimen before I fell out of routine with that (currently working on that, by the way). Every day I read at least one poem, every day I wrote at least one poem—and then on February 17 I got my revenge.
Yes, it’s a bit anticlimactic, I’m aware. To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting to make a breakthrough so quickly so I began to struggle with the validity of my own “win”. I asked and questioned myself just hours after getting the news that a poem of mine would be published. Was it a fluke or was it valid? And, with my naturally pessimistic and cynical mind, I continued to write and read as I did until I got published again—not even a month later, two more poems of mine get picked for publication.
I’m continually finding Michael Jordan-esque reasons to remain competitive and to stoke my petty flames (and if those fires do burn a while, I suppose getting some sort of poetry award would be my next goal for that medium) but I occasionally ponder my own method of writing poems.
Sometimes it is simple as Hemingway said—sitting down at my station and bleeding onto a page. Other times, life has to happen to me and I must bear witness whether I like it or not. Taking everything into account, all of the knowledge that I’ve accrued on how to make ink flow like rivers and communicating through the art of storytelling, I managed to translate to the medium. Since I am not seeing a therapist (currently), I figure that I might as well use poetry as a way to air out my internal woes and grievances. Since I’m not outside and acting like a normal person my age, I should use poetry as a way to communicate with strangers and to live freely without fear. And I always do my best never to hide, like in life, even when I lie with my prose—because if there’s anything that resonates well with an audience it’s genuine heart and honesty (because those are such a rarity nowadays especially on a personal level).
So, like I said, I repeat once again: writing poetry is not hard. Just write and see what happens—it’s as easy as that.
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