The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

THE POWER OF POETRY #13: “YOU TALK TOO MUCH” – CRISTOPHER GIBSON

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You Talk Too Much

– Cristopher Gibson

 

“CRISTOPHER!” Is what I recall most about school, the dinner table, church, or really anywhere I was with other people as a child. Anyone who knows me knows that I talk…a lot. As a kid this was in hyper drive. I just couldn’t seem to find my vocal box off switch. My father found it funny to use this as an opportunity to introduce 7 year old Cristopher to Run DMC through the song You Talk Too Much. Words have always been a favorite thing of mine. I grew up using them to make friends, to make it clear to folks we weren’t friends, to build, to tear down but never really learned how to control them. In junior high I started doing rap battles. This was the first time I not only learned the impact words could have but how, when pointed and deliberate, they could have a greater impression. However, it wouldn’t be until several years later that I truly learned how to speak with purpose and understanding.

Over the years I went on through battles and making music of different kinds knowing what I was saying had power but not caring what that impact was nor was I tailoring words to have a specific effect. Eventually I moved from Oklahoma to Minnesota at a strange and trying time in my life. 19 years old I moved to a city where I knew no one, was working hard to change the person I had been, and was carrying around a good 5 years worth of bottled up feeling from different life events. I had stopped doing music and realized, without that, I needed to find some way to regain my footing. As I was rediscovering who I was, it’s no surprise talking and words were the building blocks for this, since they had been a part of my upbringing. Not ready to get back into music a friend pointed me to spoken word. Through writing crappy poems, meeting people kind enough to call me out and educate me, and finally learning to tell authentic stories I truly began to see what the honed power of words could accomplish.

Not only did poetry teach me how to speak with passion and considerate word choice but it taught me how to shut up and listen. I learned to recognize when spaces weren’t meant for my voice or to know when I was covering up someone else. Poetry, specifically spoken word, is a conversation. I personally believe, anytime we employ words as a means of expression we are inviting that conversation. While we may be the ones on stage, over the radio, etc. we are then setting ourselves up to listen after. This mentality didn’t stop with music or poetry. In my relationships with my wife, my friends, and my family I began to think more about what I was saying to them or about the tone I was using. I come from a family of “let’s shout the worst things we can when we’re really mad then grab a glass of whiskey.” However, as I’ve gotten older, along with members of my family, we’ve taken more time to think about what we say to each other. I’ve learned when it’s my place to just listen to my friends stories and not talk over them. Poetry taught me how to use words not just to say what I want but to listen and understand others. To find the common ground through the exchanging of our words. It’s true, I still definitely talk too much, but I learned to do it for a reason and when to finally shut up, thanks to the power of poetry.

 

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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