I started writing poetry in high school. And it was god awful. In college, I studied poets, and I attempted to do a senior project in poetry, where I wrote a complete book of poems. I wrote constantly. I had hundreds of poems and did not seem to ever be able to turn off that part of me. I thought some of them were pretty good, but my advisor dumped me half way through, saying he didn’t think I could do it.
I still kept writing, but not as prolific as before. It was slower, and more haltingly. My confidence in my poetry was flattened. I wanted to apply to grad school for an MFA in poetry, but never managed to pull it off. Or perhaps I thought I would do it later, and then life got in the way. I kept writing, but stopped identifying myself as a poet, writer yes, poet, not so much anymore.
When I was living in New York City and single, I wrote scads of poetry, went to a few poetry slams and open mics, even read my stuff in front of complete strangers. I was always received well. I attempted to send my poems to lit mags, here and there, but after the initial attempt, it would take me a year or two before I got up the gumption to send anything else out. I spent an awful lot of time writing fiction and writing in my journals, and I could see the benefit of my studies in poetry and poetic tendencies in the prose.
Then I realized I was getting old and would need to do something if I didn’t want to be a waitress for my whole life(I was 25 when I made this realization,) so I decided to become a teacher. I might have thought that I would be giving up my poetry to become a teacher, but upon looking back, I can see that some of my best poetry was written when I was teaching. And let me tell you, teaching teenagers about poetry, and encouraging them to write their own is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I loved watching kids light up when they read something they connected with. Even better was when they found just the write words to share something of themselves, and opened up a door within them. So many of them took off into the poetry and blossomed.
Sometimes I think that door into myself was closed when I had kids. I know that poetry doesn’t go away. It’s still there somewhere inside of me, but there are times when the prosaic day to day of living is too loud and bulky to allow poetry sneak it’s way out into the sun.
I am working on opening that door. Maybe I’ll settle for a basement window.
It IS National Poetry Month, and that makes it a good time to make the attempt.
Next up: Who Knows!? Poets don’t stand for rigid schedules. Except for when they do.