The Why Of It

Why do any of us write poetry?

Specifically, why do I write poetry?

I use to be really sure about my poetry goals when I first started. I was going to go to grad school, maybe publish some books, possibly teach and do some globetrotting along the way. But like any wannabe poet who reads actual poets who have their shyt together, I spent more time questioning my abilities than using them.

Well written, well edited poetry can either inspire you or have you wondering why you wanted to be a poet in the first place. I rationalized my doubting by saying to myself even those who've been published had to start from somewhere; no one comes out of the womb with Strunk & White in hand. What I did most though was remind myself modern day bards move from poetry varsity to the pros by...wait for it ---> ACTUALLY WRITING POETRY.

Not sitting in front of a laptop waiting for words to swan dive off of eyelids onto a screen; or use journal pages for grocery list instead of the pulse of living. Yes, just like a job, writing poetry takes work.

Malcolm Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success and came to the conclusion that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field.

I’m a few thousand hours short on practice, but I've definitely got em’ all beat when it comes to thinking about writing poetry, easily.

Aye, there’s the rub.

Nothing comes to sleepers but dreams.

A lot of us poetry folk are dreamers at heart; some better at dreaming than writing. We want to pimp slap oppression with stanzas, terza rima injustice and racism into oblivion; generally make the world a better place one metaphor at a time. I know I would spend so much time dreaming about words and what they could do, I occasionally forgot that writing them down was a big part of the process.

In my social networking life, I’ve seen what can be accomplished with the marriage of effort to practice. I have quite a few friends who’ve moved their writing dreams into the realm of reality with hard work and determination, which makes me hopeful about my future. Even though I may be a master at procrastination, I've never forgotten why I chose to write poetry; to connect myself to a world I always felt disconnected from, to make prayers visible and give voice to my imagination.

Even in times of doubt, when the question of why arises, I’m still enough of a poet to answer it with a resounding why not?


It Creeps In...

I'm sad. 

There I wrote it. 

I'm not looking for pity or coddling in writing this statement. It's more for my own edifice; a deliberate declaration of defiance against lying to myself. The holidays it seems are a catalyst for sadness to creep up on me out of nowhere. I've been good at hiding it over the years but now it's drowning me like a flood and somehow that's okay. 

My father died 33 years ago today and I can still feel the vibrations of hearing my mother telling me he was never coming home again...ever. It's like an echo becoming louder when the New Year approaches; today it reverberates deep into my bones. 

I think I've held on to so much of this sadness because I've never grieved properly after his sudden death or the sudden deaths, murders and passings of family and friends; I often wonder if there is ever any proper way to deal with it? 

Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross provides a template to follow but in reality there is no magic bullet for alleviating it. As a boy I was always taught that men don't cry and you have to be strong for the others around you. I would see examples of my father and uncles seemingly unaffected by tragedies and deaths and wondered how could they not want to cry or be sad? I was, but I emulated their cues and learned how to hold it in. 

Even when I've been fortunate enough to be able to share it with someone, I felt like I was burdening them. Even now while composing these words it almost feels wrong but I receive strength in knowing that in the human experience none of us are immune to it; it's how we handle it that makes all the difference.

I know I can't keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. So in writing this post I make an acknowledgment to embrace my sadness for there is indeed a quiet serenity in letting it pass through me.