Hello, everyone! Intern Joshua here.
With workshops underway, I thought I’d share a bit about how I got into writing poetry. I’ll be honest when I say that it was not love at first sight between me and poetry. On our first few dates, I simply tolerated it, finding it to be complicated, and hard to figure out. Like the gentleman I am, however, I strung it along. I did this for quite a while until, to be completely frank, I began to detest poetry, even going so far as avoiding eye contact in public places, and unfollowing it on Twitter, finding its tweets to be pretentious and devoid of meaning. I would only call occasionally – after dark, with a glass of wine in hand – and each time, I was reminded of the initial basis for my disdain.
Whenever someone asks my brother if he and I are close, he jokingly (I think) replies, “It’s a love-hate relationship – he loves me, and I hate him!” Ultimately, I would describe my relationship with poetry this same way. Some days, I would be the one who loved it, but other days, I would be the one who hated it.
I think like anyone who grew up reading Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, or any number of children’s poets, when I first attempted poetry, I did so under the impression that everything, must, rhyme. Either the first line and the second line had to rhyme, followed by the third and the fourth, or the first and the third and, in turn, the second and fourth. If I was feeling overly ambitious on any given day, I could make every third line rhyme. This is an exhausting mentality, however. There are only so many words that rhyme with Netflix, I thought. Chex Mix, obviously. Tetris, kind of. Taylor Swift, not really at all.
It wasn’t until learning that poetry doesn’t have to rhyme – that love doesn’t have to be this hard – that I began to understand, and furthermore, even appreciate poetry. It wasn’t until my realization that poetry can take any form that I desire, and cover any topic that’s been weighing on me, that I began to understand its complexity.
I realized that I could write poems about my love life – or lack thereof. I could write poems about grieving, or poems about religion, or poems about family. I could write fiction poems if I had a story I wanted to tell.
I realized that I could write epic poems, that don’t fit neatly onto a single page. Because when I tell a story, I’m usually unable to do so in a single page.
A poet by the name of Marie Howe published a collection of poems entitled What the Living Do. The collection, primarily about the death of her brother, and the aftermath of the loss, contains poems about childhood, about becoming intimate with someone after losing a loved one, about living – with guilt, and confusion, and joy. Each poem takes on a different form, and few if any of the poems rhyme. Had I even just glanced at any of them as a child, I wouldn’t be able to identify them as poems. Today, however, realizing that poetry is extremely subjective, and personal – that it can take any form – it’s become my favorite collection of poems.
Until realizing that there is no one right way to do poetry and, in turn, no wrong way to do it, I really couldn’t see a future with it. There was no white picket fence, or Suburban in the drive. It was simply an on-again-off-again situation. However, at this point, I’m about ready to put a ring on it.
What’s your relationship with poetry?
Joshua, Fall 2015 Intern