Poetry proved to be my gateway drug to a life-long addiction to the written word.
It started with me the same way it did with so many. I was just some aimless teenager with little self-esteem, looking for something to make the world a little more tolerable. Sadly, I can't remember who came first, the years and writers have so blurred in my syllable-addled mind. It was probably Emily Dickinson, with her simple lines and questionable punctuation choices as she talked about death, nature, and love. Good, old Emily.
But it didn't stop there. The high school years were quickly filled with Robert Frost's Two Roads, Birches, and Hyla Brook. From there, I found myself stirring Shakespearean sonnets, Whitman, Tennyson, Wordsworth, both Brownings, and Randall Jarrell into my morning Mountain Dew just to get through the day.
College was no better. In fact, I found myself carrying a couple pieces of e.e. cummings on scraps of paper just so I could keep the twitching down (there was no breathing without "She Being Brand"). By the end of the first year, I was mainlining Wallace Stevens, Berryman, T.S. Elliot, Lowell, W.D. Snodgrass (particularly Heart's Needle #5), and Wilbur, while licking a little William Carlos Williams off the tips of my fingers (I mean, who knew how much depended on the red wheelbarrow?).
When I wasn't reading poetry, I was bouncing between writing fantastic stories of impossible things and poetry about death, pain, and the occasional kitten. It was bad poetry that dripped angst and sweat in a stinky yellow pool. Oooh, but it felt so good, like that first hit of Blake or Shelley after a long absence. Poetry taught me the value of words. It taught me to taste them, rolling them around in my mouth like a fine wine. I weighted words in my hands before plunking them down on the page like a barbarian with a club. It taught me that power of the simple and the beauty of the understated.
Fast-forward more years than I'll ever admit to now, where I am a published author. I'm still not completely clean, though I'm no longer sucking down Ginsberg in dirty bathroom stalls or popping Poe to get through dinner. The clawing hunger climbs into my lap between projects, leaving me scrambling into the waiting arms of some old favorites. It's like knocking the crust and scabs off of my soul. The pain is swift and the ache is deep, but the slow burn that follows feels so good. Poetry is the quickest way to getting back to why I started writing in the first place; the dark spots in the soul.
For the writers out there, here's a link to a constant favorite. If you can, actually listen to the recording.
The Writer by Richard Wilbur.
And for the dreamers, I leave a link to this perennial favorite that keeps so many marching forward.
Do you have a favorite poem or poet? Who makes your soul twitch?