I am a poet. That much, at least, should be clear to you by now if you’re reading this. I also happen to be about as selfish, stubborn, hypocritical, and contradictory as a person can get. Any great poet must be that way, I think. Poetry is just not something you can be good at if you’re a generally nice, well-adjusted person with a sunny disposition. The business of exposing truth is not a pleasant one done by pleasant people.
It is, however, a necessary occupation for both the writers and readers of poetry. Never can enough be said about the dire need for poetry in a weary, confusing world, but the reality of my selfishness is that I do it because I would burst into shreds without it. I don’t know of any other way to calm the boiling seas in my head and heart. Most days I am sick with it.
I suppose you know already that I must also be operating on some level of lunacy to commit to a year-long project that requires so much of my time and dedication- in essence, a lifestyle commitment. The worrisome part of it is that since severely curbing my free time and social interaction in favor of writing, I think I have actually become more stable, more satisfied… dare I say, happy?
But I do admit that within this project lies a deeper motivation, which points right back to that aforementioned selfishness: I want to be excellent. Eventually I want to be published, that’s no secret, but before that I want to be exceptional at what I do. The only way I know how to get better at something is to keep trying, laboriously.
One of the most important aspects about being excellent, perhaps even more important than skill, is originality. Ironically, I cannot yet say whether I possess any originality because I wouldn’t know- I don’t read poetry. While there are certain poems and poets that I admire as being outstanding, what I mean to say is that I am not a student of poetry. I don’t read the greats to learn how it’s done. I just do it.
(I can just feel your eyes rolling, the bile rising in your throats, but I’m going to continue this self-absorbed rant to its conclusion, please and thanks.) If there’s any kind of poetry that I do read (besides my own, over and over obnoxiously) it’s bad poetry. I can’t get enough of it: cliche, clustered, poorly written, naive, all-around bad poetry. And I know you’re thinking it’s probably so I can gloat and feel all yay-look-at-me about it, and of course that’s partially true (didn’t I tell you I’m like that?) but actually it does a world of good for me by stirring up some motivational disgust when I need it. Also it’s usually hilarious.
I think there’s a beautiful place in heaven for the writers of bad poetry, especially for the beatings they take from snarky narcissists like me, who will have my own little fiery pit for making fun of it. I would never in my life discourage anyone from writing poetry; as self-therapy I’ve seen it work wonders. (I take a little bit of an issue with wanting to share the results of said self-therapy with the world at dreadful coffee shop readings, or worse, peddling chapbooks full of it, but that’s really none of my affair.) I think if more people wrote with the purpose of exploring their own inner-selves as opposed to somehow gaining fame and fortune (ha!) we wouldn’t have all this angst floating around, trying to find an outlet.
To summarize (which is proving difficult because I can’t seem to remember why the hell I was prompted to write this or what I’m even getting at) I guess what I mean to say to my current 720 followers (lord knows how that happened) is that if you take a gander over at that pretty black-and-white author portrait on the right of the page, you’d never guess that was a cell phone selfie in somebody’s really nice bathroom. I’m more of a schmuck than you know. This poetry project has made me happier, but no less of a selfish, egotistical person, and I’m not even sorry for it. I owe it only to finding the thing I was meant to do. And to all of you I say- you owe it to yourselves to find the thing which you’re meant to do, the thing about which you can write an entirely self-congratulating essay, detailing how great you are at doing it. Find the thing which sets your mind on fire and makes you not care that people generally don’t want to read about you blowing your own horn. Find that thing and do it.