I feel the need to explain why I had taken a brief hiatus from poetry, because the subject came up in the middle of a rather refreshing daydream earlier today. The break away from my practice lasted a good while, almost 4 years; I’m still finding it difficult to understand how one event could halt my passion so suddenly. However, after reviewing the series of events leading to me burying my pen, things are beginning to make sense… At least, in a slightly infantile light.
Late August – 23Sep 2014
By this time, I had already completed my first year of college and was already well into my sophomore year at SLCC. Yes, I went to a community college to get through my general ed-credits so I could go to Uni for a major (after I figured out what I wanted to do with my damn life), but I digress. The campus had plenty of clubs to do with creativity, but a younger me was not one to purposely socialize… In spite of my personal setback, I pushed myself to inquire about the poetry workshop and made the first class of the new semester the following Tuesday. In it, there were a few familiar faces from normal classes, but mostly a small group of others I’ve never seen even walking around campus. Curious.
Evident from my previous posts, I have kept a stellar record of poetry I’ve written all the way back in 2007 and on, so to have the opportunity to share what I’ve created with a group of like-minded artists was quite a thrill indeed. I wasted no time and searched through my archive and grabbed my personal favorite pieces and had them ready for the first meeting. Sure enough, the first thing the sponsoring Professor suggested we do to break the ice was to introduce ourselves with a poem that best represented our unique style of writing. “I have just the one!” I thought as I shuffled through the pages I had brought.
We were all circled around the desks, and by the way the rotation began, I was going to be the third to introduce myself. First impressions are everything. I must admit, I have a horrible habit of holding too much pride in my work. But, in my mind, if no one wrote with such precision, dedication and heart as I had: why wouldn’t I pride myself in my craft? Up until this point, I had never met someone who understood and lived by the poetic discipline like I did; any other attempt to surround myself with those who (in my mind) was on my level of understanding ended in futility and disappointment. However, this time seemed different at first glance. This was a college with adults from all around the state, who range in age and experience. Those that have just began to take an interest in poetry, and those that have perfected their art to the definition of GOD…
Such an opportunity both intimidated and intrigued me heavily!
Until… Well, the same damnable thing happened as previous. Pitiful displays of my passion and art, the let down was great! Loose themes, spotty or nonexistent imagery, poor excuses for rhythm, inconsistent rhyme schemes… The lot of their works would barely qualify as poetry, let alone creative writing. Repulsive, absolutely putrid… And I came to that realization before I had even presented. I remember that, with the exception of myself and 2 others, the remaining 9 students brought lyrical pieces. There is absolutely nothing wrong with lyrical work of course, but the material could be found on your local failing Soundcloud rapper’s profile. Vile, disrespectful and most importantly: not real. Getting money, sleeping around with girls, and staying on the grind. I’m never one to put down a form of creativity, but in a place of intellect, there is no room for foolishness. In the name of all that is pleasurable and worthwhile in this life: it was all horrible.
This was my honest and uncensored reaction to the entire introduction, and… It got worse when I was next…
After each person recited a piece, we’d take a minute to discuss how we interpreted the message, theme and how it spoke to us. We briefly discussed the imagery, phrasing structure and other things; if anyone had questions, we’d also touched on those and gave the reader a chance to get rid of any confusion the less refined pieces might have bore. This was the basic template for how future meetings would go; this explanation will help you understand an important detail later on.
* I read a couple of my autumn haikus and What Dreams Bring for my presentation *
Professor Hall seemed fairly pleased with what I had to present which made my anxiety subside for the moment. I let out a labored sigh and took a second to collect myself. Immediately, questions began to flood the air like sour milk left on the kitchen counter. There were a lot of what did that one mean? and why did you write that one? questions being tossed around… Do these pieces confuse any of you?
(FUTURE POEM POSTS?)
Leaves of autumn end
Climb into snow’s crystal cold
And sleep beneath sheets.
Still, I love her song…
One perch on that crooked branch
Colored grey mornings.
Silent, midnight thieves
Fear the tattling crackles
Of brittle brown leaves.
I still believe these haikus are simple enough to understand and give enough imagery to satisfy, and I still believe the abundance of confusion was not birthed by my hand. The rampant clamoring and snide remarks tossed my way helped me realize that I had stumbled in front of a band of fools and greens… This was the first meeting and I already knew I had failed in my search for mentors and comrades to grow and dwell with. My pen had served a pack of mindless rats only concerned with quick fame. I went against my promise for secrecy and shared my potent prose to a herd of sheep. My title as a poet was disgraced by teasing and side comments!
I decided to continue attending the poetry workshop because Professor Hall had taken an interest in my work. I’m sure he pitied the rest of the class and enjoyed what they brought as well, but only for the sake of saving face. Before the Tuesday meetings, I’d send in freshly-written pieces for his personal review and critique, (and through the occasional strikes against my pride that always comes with suggestions) I learned so much under his mentorship. He taught me an even more concise discipline than what I developed in my lonesome, and I owe my current work to him alone.
The last time I attended the poetry workshop would prove to be the harshest reminder of my flaws as an artist. In all of my practice and refinement, Professor Hall would give me the final lesson I needed, but one that would shoot me into the longest stage of denial of my life. Pride is a poison.
“You bring great pieces into the workshop, but there is one thing I’ve noticed. With the poetry you’ve shown the other students, you have a very polished flow and word structure. If I had your poetry against others, I could instantly recognize your tone and style. This is great, but there is one fatal mistake you consistently make. No one ever knows what you’re writing about. I write poetry for myself, which is fine: but if I was to present that same piece to others, there are so many small details and experiences that the audience will be ignorant to; your writing is experience-bias. You are able to bring feelings and imagery, but you fail to let the audience know the poem’s PURPOSE without explaining afterward.
Any poet that needs to explain a poem to the audience is no poet at all.”
That killed me. It crushed my drive to write from that point on because I took offense to his honest lesson. My naive and pride-drenched ego could not handle the simple truth that I can now say with certainty I have overcome.
After I read and reread that email, I couldn’t gather the strength to face Professor Hall again. I feel like he took my motivation to write. After all, he was right, and my inflated pride couldn’t take the bullets to my core. All of the poetry I had written up to that point came from experiences that many people can’t relate to. A failed relationship that eerily mirrored the tragic Romeo and Juliet piece was not going to resonate with a large group, but they were all masterpieces to me. I failed in looking at poetry through the paper tube that I placed over one eye, which handicapped my view to the remaining universe that creative writing and poetry really IS. I only used my pen to describe my unfortunate ties to a love chocked by bigotry, but nothing about the delight of morning tea or a sunset… At least, that’s how I see my work now. At the time, I thought I was writing from the heart.
I was only writing from the stitched wounds.