I don’t like mysteries, but I like things that are mysterious. I don’t take great joy in solving puzzles, but I do take great joy in the puzzling of it.
A couple years ago I decided that I was going to buckle down and learn to appreciate and understand poetry. It’s not that I’ve spent the better part of my life hating it. I memorized Frost’s ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ when my 8th grade class did their reading of The Outsiders. I suffered through Donne’s ‘The Flea’ in high school, though I’m still not sure it means everything we were taught it means. I fell fast and hard for Rumi and Bukowski in college, because they put words together in ways that made me understand the things I was feeling. No, it’s not that I hated poetry, it’s that I’d spent the better part of my life taking poetry for granted. Why should these groupings of words, often simultaneously dense and spare, mean more to me than any other groupings? After all, I can’t put together words like that. Why waste my time on studying word groupings that I don’t plan on emulating?
For some reason, 2010 felt like a good time to change that. I don’t know if it’s because I was starting to be more proactive about my life in general, or if it was because I had words caught inside of me that wouldn’t be wrangled into long-form prose, but I decided not to take this beloved form of self-expression for granted anymore. I started collecting recommendations. I started reading everything.
Finally, eventually, I got a better handle on it. Though I felt like I still didn’t understand what gave my favorite poets and poems that spark. I thought, then, that maybe I needed to understand poetry from the inside out. Maybe I needed to try and write some of my own. Last May I quietly started a Tumblr blog where I intended to put one poem a day, regardless of worth or beauty. I needed to practice sitting down and corralling words, rather than letting them lead me.
Some of those poems are terrible, but complete strangers still liked or reblogged them. Some of them are pretty decent, but need a lot of work to make them worth their time. Some of them helped me to voice things I hadn’t been able to voice up until then. When that happened I felt like I’d finally gotten it. I felt like I finally understood why some people gravitated towards poetry rather than prose. Some stories don’t need a full arc. Sometimes moments are enough to make another person understand. Some things can only be digested in moments, I think. Which isn’t to say that a poem can’t tell a whole story, because they often do.
The reason I’m making this post is because this morning I was considering doing a poem a day again. I’m already a day behind to do it in May, but it’s not like I can’t run over into June for a day. And a poem a day might even keep the therapist away. But as I was considering this I realized that I might not want to publish all of them on the tumblr. I might want to keep some of them to myself, to work and render and turn into something worthy of sending out into the world officially. I realized that, while I find I still don’t feel like I ‘understand’ poetry, I want to be a part of it. I think I would like to be a poet.
That’s a scary thought. But I have that poem coming out in the fall. And I have another that Alli pretty much refuses to let me send to a place that isn’t an actual literary magazine, because she likes it that much. I owe a lot to a lot of my friends and their belief in me, no matter how misguided I fear it is. So I might as well gather up some belief for myself. I’m just a blunt shovel, but I’d like to be a spade, I think.
It’s an ongoing battle. If you’re curious the Secret Poetry Tumblr is here. Feel free to follow along or leave notes and crit. I’m a pretty strong believer in crit for any form of writing.
For getting through that, here’s a poem by a living poet who inspires me gads. I still want to be Margaret Atwood when I grow up, but I’d feel pretty amazing if I somehow became Anis Mojgani on the way.