BEDA Day 8: Poetry, According to Me

Hey, guys! I hope you're doing well. This week has been a little bit overwhelming, but I'm hanging in there. I have a big exam in one of my science classes on Friday, and for some reason nothing makes the week go by quicker than a big exam on the horizon. The good news, at least, is that means it's almost the weekend. But enough about that; school and tests and academics are generally boring topics.

What I wanted to talk about today is poetry, in honor of April being National Poetry Month. I have a very unique relationship with poetry that I want to explore. Basically, I wouldn't consider myself a poet. Or at least not a good one. Poetry doesn't come easily to me, both reading and writing it. And that's fine, because I don't expect myself to naturally excel at every type of writing I undertake, but for some reason, poetry has plagued me for the longest time. Not being naturally inclined toward stanza and meter and endstops sure has a way of making me feel inferior. That's because right now I'm in an intro to poetry class. I took the class because it fulfills credits for my creative writing minor, and as I just mentioned I wanted an opportunity to get better at reading and writing poetry. "Better" is the operative term here; I don't know if I'll ever master the art of poetry, but I am seeing improvement. A lot of that has to do with relinquishing preconceived notions about what poetry is and isn't.

For the longest time I thought I was terrible at poetry because I thought it all had to be incredibly thought-out and intentional, right down to the commas and semi-colons. I thought my poetry couldn't be good unless it read like a muddled storm of metaphor and angst. I thought I needed to make allusions that only the most precocious literature students could pick up on. I compared myself to the other students in my class, who were writing poems that were metaphysical and confusing. Turns out I was wrong. Turns out poetry is whatever you want it to be.

At least that's the conclusion I've come to. I could be wrong, but I think there's beauty in poems that are meant to be taken literally. I don't think there's anything wrong with poems that tell it like it is. Poems that don't require you to reference a dictionary every third word. Poems that are easy to understand. Because while some poems require work and are worth digging deep for, I don't necessarily think it's bad for a poem to put everything out there on the table. No complicated literary devices. Just, "read this poem. Feel something. Go with your first instinct."

What do you think, though? Because maybe I'm oversimplifying things. Maybe I'm just giving myself an excuse to write basic poems. But maybe I'm onto something. Maybe some art is meant to be immediately felt--some art can touch your heart without first establishing a heavily-contrived metrical scheme. Maybe we're too afraid to tell it like it is, and we're clouding up our poems because we don't have the courage to do otherwise. I'll leave you with a poem I wrote recently, and you can answer those questions for yourself.

Fourteen, Street Corner

Over a quick visit to my hometown,
I drove past my old high school
which isn’t hard to do, in fact
it’s hard not to drive by the building
when running suburban errands.
Because someone thought a major road
slicing the town in half was a prime spot
for secondary education.

Stalling at the stop sign,
a young girl waited to cross the street
next to the open window of my SUV’s
passenger side. Maybe fourteen, born
the same year this car was manufactured.
Her backpack slung low over slumped shoulders,
Legs exposed in shorts worn in a heat wave.
Denim on her skin; apparently inadequate armor.

Because soon came a car from the opposite direction.
Four men at forty miles an hour
hollering incoherently, pinning passive pain
on a girl who dressed for the weather
on her walk home. And I watched her sudden shame.
From my rearview mirror I recognized her grimace.
And I remembered being on that sidewalk,
my cheeks fiery after another day in ninth grade.

Wishing to be eradicated, blaming myself
for an opinion resounded by a violently wielded sword.
Slicing apart my self-worth with a sloppy hand.
Wondering if I had permission to be upset
while choking under the weight of a pompous thumb
who yelled from the safety of a moving vehicle.
From the safety of boys just being boys

on suburban roads, on the assumption that she doesn’t matter.

Until tomorrow.



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