Coming at you, reader, to sing the praises of poetry, you must first be made aware that I am someone who was called a poet … even though I refused to call myself that then and have even less privilege to do so now. My refusal was not one of humility (faux or earnest) but veneration for those represented under said title and introduced via early teachings and later discoveries both on paper and in person. Woe are they who refuse the muse; I have been in downfall ever since. But even in my angry impotence, the joy that poems and reading them continue to bring is unrivaled.
My favorite poems are worlds unto themselves – those that take a moment and wring a particular vantage for all its worth (hopefully unexpectedly but sometimes just beautifully); learning more about one’s own world by relating to it through someone else’s senses is an amazing experience. Responding to the dissonance between my sense of self and math courses that seemed increasingly inapplicable to daily life, I rebelled and switched loves in my third year of high school. When I realized saying one thing could mean something else, or that simply rearranging words or choosing different ones could alter intensity and meaning – simple concepts to most, but a revelation to teenaged me – I read and invested myself in every stanza my academic institutions wanted to throw at me and every off-the-syllabus recommendation my teachers dared to throw a thirsty new admirer.
All of this was incredibly selfish of course; by reading, I consumed the worlds of the world I lived in and reaped nothing less than everything – from understanding emotions I already possessed to interests in the goings-on and people in geographies not my own – from doing so. And as so often is the case with consumers of art, the eventual if not inevitable overflow required one solution: release. Seduced by a dare from a public speaking teacher in college, I visited an open mic she hosted at a coffee shop in a nearby city. (Fuck Starbucks.) To see people on stage like rock stars impassionate in their delivery of their own words was surreal. It seemed poetry was not capable of arresting its philanthropic nature, and I was still as greedy for the word but also giving as good as I was getting (or at least striving to) by participating and sharing. To any ego, applause and cheers are intoxicating, but seeing people stand, having them approach (sometimes weeks later) to share how a poem affected them, and invite you to do the same thing in a different space was intoxication … but still not more so than sitting down with the most recent issue of a literary rag or collection of poems and wading with the words.
True story: I used to read lit journals religiously when out to eat by myself. Once, I left a read-through copy of Poetry with a few bills in it for the waitress who always asked what I was reading. When I came back next, she said she devoured the one-of-a-kind tip and was thinking of subscribing. This, too, is the power of poetry. Passive-aggressive as it may have been (though not my intent), another poetry love was born … or at least encouraged. And sharing is hard; poetry has an awful stigma due to academia’s institutional stranglehold on the concept. Thankfully, however, poetry will always be of, by, and for the people. It is because of poetry that I met so many wonderful friends and acquaintances who continue to challenge and expand my horizons. It just takes ambassadors to guide the right lines into the eyes or ears of potential appreciators. And lucky for us all, there are as many types of poetry and styles of expression therein to appeal to everyone. I could namedrop my favorite classics and contemporaries, but they’d all be irrelevant sans context of the recipient(s) or require more details than I’ve space to fill.
Those are essays for other days.
Ink has been writing creatively ever since the myriad avenues literature afford ripped his heart away from the rigid clutch of mathematics in high school. He’s published in literary journals worldwide and, under his own power, produced four chapbooks as well as one complete collection: Miserable with Fire. Ink freelances as an editor for Piscataway House Publications, which published his work in a modern haiku/senryu collaboration as well as his 2014 collection, Death Loves a Drinking Game, as part of their Duel Book series