Poetics and Compasses
I think of my poetry and wonder why. Why did I start? I try to piece it together and I think there was some moment in early high school or the end of middle school that must have catalyzed the curiosity. I had a strong interest in writing that likely started sometime after I fell in love with reading. Even if it was just through msn messenger or eventually Facebook, I cared a lot about saying things right. Sometimes I cared about sounding smart but more than anything, about sounding how I meant to. I doubt that's unique, but possibly the amount that I cared about it was. Which came and went. I enjoyed writing stories and prose was always with me.
But, how did poetry come in? Some assignment I did for an English class was better than average. I haven't the faintest idea what the assignment was but I had to write a poem (or a few?) It was good enough for a teacher to make a big deal out of it and plant a seed. And isn't that wild? I always find it wild how much (often accidental) control and influence school teachers have over trajectories.
Teenage infatuation came next. Crushes and unrequited love became poetic fuel. I played with being concise, and taking more time, but never made any poems that were terribly long. Eventually I would share each poem through a notes app within Facebook. It kept things simple. The Facebook timeline was still linear and not yet curated by algorithms. Within my 300 or so pseudo "friends" I gathered a bit of an audience. I remember having a few metrics. I could see that occasionally tens of folks would read a poem, and an even better metric was the comments that each poem might get. They'd be read because my friends knew me, not because they had any real interest in poetry. And to be completely honest, I didn't have much interest in poetry for a while — even while writing it. The general definition of poetry simply not being prose was good enough for me. Systems and styles and rules brought up in English classes were off-putting but I liked the medium anyway.
Some of my favourite comments were from people who didn't like poetry or didn't understand it or didn't know much about it. But they felt something after reading one of mine. Something notable. If I was lucky, tears or a smile, or an anecdote worth leaving. That did it for me. That solidified in my mind what merit the medium had. I'm in the middle of art school right now and regardless of how you want to analyze things, that's often so much of what it's all really about.
I'm not quite sure when I started to take poetry seriously. Was it when a poem got published? I don't even remember the magazine or book that it got published in. My mom sent it off and it was good enough for that. That was great but it didn't mean much to me at the time. I don't think there was any moment where a switch flipped. Every time a poem meant something, it added to a library of purpose. The poems built a momentum of mattering that is now within me in a way that I can't imagine it ever stopping. Even when months and months passed between poems, I came back. It's been something I did but it wasn't really something I was.
Now that I see myself as an artist and not just someone going to art school, I also see myself as a writer and a poet. I hope to get published like the poets I read and have my work on paper. Not just transient digital places. But even then, now that I know that poetry is more than just a passing view, maybe I ought to learn some marketing? Or at least share the poems in more places. Eventually they'll find their way.