Poetry is my literary home. I go back to it whenever I need to center myself or when the pipeline that carries my word-flow from brain to page gets clogged. My mindset changes. I feel free. No boundaries. No need to worry about punctuation, proper sentence structure, plot, character development, blah, blah, blah. All I need to do is let go and let the words take me. Writing the first draft of a poem is magical.
I wrote my first poem at age twelve as a way to process my grandma's death. We didn't have a computer in April of 1993, so in my best cursive and blue ball-point bic, I wrote her a poem. I even added a little drawing of her in the corner. At her wake, my dad slipped my only copy into her casket and it was buried with her. I don't remember much of what I wrote but I do recall I titled it, "The Dream" and some of the first line went like this, "In my dream, you were alive and well--talking, laughing, singing in your beautiful voice."
I am certain it was not a masterpiece, but it was the first step in a lifelong journey. I kept writing, publishing some poems in my school's literary magazine in junior high. There was a teacher's aide at my school named Mrs. Scott who encouraged me and shared some of her work with me as well. Then, I worked as an editor on my high school's literary magazine, Mirrors. I read a lot of other kids' work and kept producing writing of my own, most of it on scraps of college rule paper that have since been lost to time. So it goes, says Mr. Vonnegut. Can't be too attached to things, even the products of your own imagination.
Although I majored in political science in college, I took every creative writing and poetry class I could. I am positive that one of the reasons I got into law school was one of my poetry teachers, Mary Biddinger's, letter of recommendation. I loved every minute of those classes. Writing was fun. I could be as weird as I wanted and no one judged me (at least not openly). It was the only area of my life in which I did not feel pressure. Achievement was secondary to my purpose. Getting that steaming soup poured out of my heart/mind/soul and onto a piece of paper. Fortunately by this time, I had a computer so I do still have a good portion of the things I wrote for classes, but my preference was to write first drafts by hand in journals. I still love pretty stationary and the feeling of an inky pen gliding across it.
All that to say, in honor of National Poetry Month, I have decided to write a poem a day for the next thirty days. The next thing I hope to do (if you'll indulge me by participating) is inspired by Natalie Goldberg. In her book,Writing Down the Bones, she describes setting up a booth where she would take three minutes to hand write a poem for a person that they could keep. I don't know if anyone would stand in line for a poem in this day and age, but if this speaks to you, here's what I'll do. If you leave me a comment on my blog or Substack, I'll write a three minute poem including you in some way. I will then post for all to read.
Happy Poetry Month!