In high school, I wrote a lot of poetry. I kept it all in a blue three-ring binder, and it traveled from my parents’ house, to my first dorm room, to my first apartment, to my second apartment, and to my third apartment. One day, while trying to clear out some of the clutter I always seem to amass, I started going through the binder to see if there was anything in it I might want to get rid of.
The entire thing got tossed.
Every single poem in that thing was downright terrible. Now, to my credit, it wasn’t any more terrible than a lot of high school poetry, but it was definitely terrible. Angst everywhere, truly questionable rhyme schemes, some narrative attempts that were painful in their execution. The day I tossed that binder was the same day I decided that if I were going to write poetry, I would wait for it to find me.
A few years and another apartment later, I was standing in the shower one night, thinking about nothing in particular while I washed my hair. An entire poem came to me, and I liked it. I liked it a lot. I hurried through the rest of my shower, muttering the entire thing over and over so I wouldn’t lose it, and then I wrote it down as soon as I could, my hair dripping water on the table and the paper.
I didn’t write another poem for about three years.
When I started writing with the intent to get published (May 2010), I assumed poetry wouldn’t be in my wheelhouse. It’s not a form I read often, and it’s not a market I know particularly well, and it’s not like I wrote enough poems to feel that the needed effort for submission was worth my time in the long run. In a good week, I can write about 6,000 words of prose. In a great week, I can clear 20,000. In a good month, I didn’t generally write poems at all.
At least, that was how it worked as recently as a year ago. Something’s happend since then, and now I’m writing poetry about twice a month. I know part of it has to do with 4and20 poetry, which is a publication for micro poems, no more than 4 lines or 20 words. I love writing challenges like that; they speak to my inner editor and encourage me to choose only the words I really, really want and need. I started writing micro poems for a laugh, creating tiny little humor things that made me grin. I have one about static cling, another about a snail. The first one I ever wrote was an angry note to my muse. Yesterday, I wrote two, and I like both of them very much. Altogether, I have fifteen or twenty written. They’re hanging out in a file waiting for me to do something with them.
The micro poems seem to have flipped my brain into poetry mode. After swearing I wouldn’t send poems out for publication again, I find myself looking for markets. I find myself sending out poems for consideration, and I find that my rejection rate on poetry is no worse than my rejection rate on anything else. My latest published piece is a poem (available in Decades Review). The submission I sent out earlier this week? A poem.
I won’t go so far as to call myself a poet. The bulk of my writing still is (and will likely continue to be) prose (with comic book scripts coming in a close second recently), but I feel much more comfortable now saying that I write poetry, and I like that I’m writing poetry. I like the poems I’m creating, and I’m always happy to find a new way to keep my brain working. I think poetry is what’s going to get me through this final, brutal term of grad school by giving me a writing outlet that requires less words but just as much creativity, and I need that very much to make the final push. I also think it’ll stick with me this time because I’ve discovered a certain rhythm that I really like, and I want to keep playing with it. I’m excited to see where I end up with this and how I get there.