Teaching Myself Poetry

Thirty years ago, I was in creative writing classes, specifically one about writing poetry. Oh, I was an egotistical little prat back then. Thought I knew it all. I was blessed by God and the muses with “talent.” I just had to pour myself into myself to spout back emotions. Words layered on words. I knew it all.

God. I was so friggin’ stupid. Still feel that way too.

It’s been thirty years since I was last in a classroom in which I was taught art and how to build art. How to twist a word and collapse the syntax to create meaning. I could have learned so much more but was too arrogant, too busy? Wanting to be funny so I made fun of the teacher who took it graciously and good-naturedly. Damn. I was so stupid.

So now, three wasted decades later, I am putting my fingers to keyboard, twisting pens into my hands, and scouring books. Writing poetry. The art of writing poetry. The art of editing poetry. And what I realize is just how little I know.

I have lived so much within this clamshell of mine. Close it to the world. Hide the translucent, soft pink and purple membranes. Snare and snag away the suggestions of my ignorance and just be. Read poetry. Love poetry. Want to write poetry. Sketch out a poem. And then stare at the words and ask myself, “What now?”

I’m at the crossroads of now. I know that I can do something with my words. I know that I can lean out the window and “yawp” at the world. But I want more. That glorious feeling of pleasure when I stop writing and the words just leap from my fingertips. Unfurl across the computer screen or the smudged up paper. I want that moment when I stop questioning and just be. Just write. Just exist within parallel moments of me writing and me reading and me editing and the words being alive.

My little progeny. My syllabic babies whom I tenderly love and extinguish with a swipe of the pen or a staccato hit of the backspace button. I love the nuances that they create. That moment when the silken membranes peel open and I feel and I let myself feel and I touch on the world and the world touches me. That moment when I stand within the world and outside the world and my breathing escapes and I just live.

I was reading Dudley Randall’s Black Poets right before I tucked into my blog and started writing. I read Randall’s pieces about love. About being a Black Man and the inhumanity he experienced. I read Gwendolyn Brooks’ piece about being a mother to aborted babies. I read poetry that allowed me to connect, even if for a moment, to experiences that I have never known and will never know.

My class arrives and for ten minutes, we sit still and read. The last five poems in Randall’s Black Poets are by a single-named writer, Stephany. They write of love. Of making love. Of those moments when lives intersect and the lines distinguishing one from another diminish. Or become more apparent. I rested in those words. Breathed in the same space. Breathed myself out of the pages and set the book down.

Time to write.

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