Like many young teenage writers, I was into poetry when I was young. I even self-published a poetry book of my own, when I was 16. Long before self-publishing was a “thing”. It was horrible, of course. Short, shallow, overwrought, emotional, crap. Don’t worry, the only sole remaining copy of which I’m aware of is tucked safely away in my basement.
I largely ignored poetry after my teens. Too interested in reading other things. Non-fiction, mostly. My brain was hungry for learning facts and truths. I’d read the occasional fiction book but it was rare. I didn’t write fiction either. It was the early pre-internet days of the online publishing revolution. I published my writing in neo-punk political zines and local BBS boards. The rantings of a young ideallist. Before my world fell apart…
A divorce, loss, single-fatherhood, loneliness, and deep depression. The poetry returned. Both the reading and the writing. This time, it was dark, jaded, angry. Was it any good? No and no matter. It was a reflection of where I was and how I’d grown in ways good and bad. The pain I was in and, if you looked long enough, a glimmer of hope in the idea of new beginnings.
Then, life got better. New wife, new child, new life. I was back to writing what I seemed best at. Things that help. I also began to read and enjoy more fiction. Go figure. But, I also began reading more poetry. Good stuff. I began to write more too. Better stuff. Stuff I was willing to share.
Now, as I’ve entered my 50th year, I’ve found deep connection and appreciation for good poetry. I can read whole books of it. I copy down my favorites by hand in my commonplace book. I’ve found a desire to both read and write more of it. To truly understand how and why it works. I’ve found that poetry, at its best, gets inside you like a virus and changes the way your eyes see the world. The world and the way you dwell within it becomes a kind of poetry too.
Perhaps, like me, you’ve found it it hard to “get” poetry. You’ve tried off and on — and maybe have even tried your own hand at it. I could point you to some of my favorites — ones that speak to me deeply — but it likely won’t help. You need to be in the right time, place, and headspace to be infected with it. You need to encounter the ones that speak to you. All I can tell you is that one day, if you keep giving it a chance, it will return. Your eyes will see the world differently then too.