I wrote a lot of poetry in my younger days. Like, a lot. It was my jam. Sometimes there was meter, sometimes there was rhyme, but I considered myself more of a free-verse poet. And most of it was terrible (bad poetry, oh noetry!). But I kept writing — so much so that my friend Pam called me a “closet English major”, which made me gush that she thought as much about me.
Here I am at 50 thinking back on the stanzas of my 20’s, and I wonder why I — why people in their 20’s — ended up writing so much poetry.
Best as I can figure, it’s that my fore-brain was still wiring itself together. The connections were still wet. And the intersection between words and ideas was where poetry happened. It’s how I tried to describe the indescribable. It’s how I made sense of the insensible. As my world expanded, out on the edges of the growing campfire light, where smoky shadows moved without proof, that’s where I tried to draw the shapes and forms with the big words and multi-line phrases.
And still, after years of the muted silence of not writing, I still think in rhythm and rhyme, in patterns, in ripples. It’s an important skill, even in writing prose, jokes, comments, posts. It’s in the cadence, in the flow. It’s not always the words that can rhyme; sometimes it’s the concepts.
I recognize that most of what I wrote was shit, and that’s fine. Michelangelo’s sketchbooks were filled with unusable scribbles and creative abortions, interesting only to historians and scholars, but that was where he tried his ideas, practiced his strokes, and perfected his craft. And so I find myself trying very hard to keep to that lesson.
I was young, and poetry was how I tried to grasp the dragon Life by the tail. It had value then, and I’m thankful for it now. I must not feel shame.