Poetry is like taking a microscopic look at the soul of a writer. Each poem allows you a tiny window into the mind of a poet. Almost as if they are connected to you like a ghost getting ready to leave their body, we become a shaky debatable version of a poet when we read their work. Growing up, my favorite poets were Shel Silverstein, Nikki Giovanni, and Sarah Kay. I wanted my words to bounce like Shel’s, to have the strength of Nikki’s, and to tell a tale like Sarah’s.
I grew up primarily being a fiction writer and that all changed when I entered the third grade and we started our unit on poetry. My first poem was a haiku called “Sunset”. Our class had a contest to see which third grader had the best poem. The winner would perform their poem in front of the whole school at an assembly. I competed and I placed second. I thought that it was it and I was ready to give up on writing. So, on the day of the assembly, I was ready to line up with my class when we noticed that the student that was supposed to perform, was not there. So, the runner up, me, had to perform instead. I hadn’t rehearsed, I was sweaty and nervous and looking down at my feet. Though, when I stood there, reading “Sunset”, I knew that this meant something to me. This whole poetry thing.
In the coming years, I became a member of my school’s poetry club. I attended poetry workshops after school and took every chance I could to write. I performed at the district wide poetry gala as the representative from my elementary school. I did everything I could to become a better poet. Though, in middle school, I started to doubt myself because of those around me who were celebrated for their writing talents. There is more than enough room for everyone’s talents to be celebrated but as an insecure kid, I thought I had no chance at success if I wasn’t the very best. It’s stupid, I know, but I didn’t ask to be born a capricorn.
I ignored my talents in high school and even until part way through college. It wasn’t until my sophomore year in college that I started writing again. I took a Basics of Creative Writing class and ended up writing this really dreamy poem called “Mr.Moon”. I entered it in my college’s poetry contest and ended up placing third. I was amazed because I thought that I had no worth as a writer because I wasn’t constantly placed on a pedestal. Though, winning third place felt so good that I knew that writing wasn’t about being the best – it’s about expressing yourself and being happy with what you’ve written. It’s not a chance for validation. After that, I started taking writing more seriously.
Though, it wasn’t until a few years later that I submitted a whole bunch of poems to Marias at Sampaguitas and finally got published for the first time. That’s when I really realized, “Oh, I’m a poet!”. It takes a long time to hone your craft and better your skills as a poet which is why so many people say it is incredibly difficult to write poetry. I have to agree, it took me about ten years to see my worth as a poet. However, that is the power of poetry. Even if you don’t want to think about, even if you don’t want to write it, even if it creeps silently in the back of your mind for years, you will always come back to it. Once a poet, always a poet and that is the power of poetry – the way that it stays with you.
Venus Davis is a 20-year-old queer writer from Cleveland, Ohio. She is the editor in chief of the Periwinkle Literary Magazine. She is also a former poetry reader for Random Sample Review and a podcaster for Prismatica Magazine. She is currently working on self-publishing her astrology microchapbook, Sensitive Divination.
@venusbeanus on twitter and instagram