It Took Me 10 Years to Publish My Poetry Collection

I create music because I have to. I might get paid for it one day, but that isn't why I’ll spend hours by myself in a basement toiling away with a bass/guitar and a microphone. There is something calming and euphoric about this ritual, something centering. 

Poetry is music without the immediate gratification of instrumental accompaniment. I write poetry not to get lost in a sound, but to find myself and usually, to find peace. And while I believe in writing fiction almost every day, writing poetry is truly about the feels—I only write when I feel it.

It took over 10 years of writing poems when inspired (or more accurately feeling an emotional spasm) to produce At Least I Get You < In My Art. The goal was always to write a collection that was a song of myself.

Writing poetry is truly about the feels—I only write when I feel it.

I wanted to show all my sides and all the shit I went through in my life. To know who I really was and what I felt about love, God, sex, friendship, work, and trauma. I wanted to be honest. It’s funny, when writing non-fiction, I want to show the best parts of myself, but with poetry, I notice I am able to show the worst parts of myself, the parts of my life or personality that I am not proud of, that I’d prefer to hide forever from judging eyes.

With my humorous non-fiction I try to focus on the funniest moments in my life, but with this poetry collection it was the worst moments that came up. Writing a poem was the only way to really make peace with certain things. I dealt with sexual abuse, heartbreak and rejection, loss of faith, and loss of parts of myself.

My faith in a god is gone, but the act of writing poetry has turned into a spiritual practice. Poetry and/or songwriting are the only ways I can have a dialogue with my higher self and deal with the lowest of lows.

Poets have a perverse comical fate, because unless they are a major name in the genre, their most intimate selves will reach very few hearts and eyes. But maybe that is not the point of poetry. Poets like Emily Dickinson wrote without expectations to be read.

It’s funny because I wrote a collection of horror poems that has been widely read (for poetry).

I also have a follow up of sports persona poems that could be the only book of poetry many bros will ever read in their life. These persona poems won’t have the intimacy and rawness of At Least I Get You..., but they’ll reach twice the amount of readers.

I have made peace with the realization that most us want entertainment over intimacy in our art. It could be that in this century, we might crave intimacy despite being afraid of it, and can only handle connection from behind a screen. Poetry is raw intimacy; it is the most ultimate Direct Message, even if it is more fun to communicate as a group, which is less intimate.

My poetry book is out there and I feel good about it—I said what I needed to say. Since its publication I haven’t been writing personal poetry. I haven’t felt the need. I am very content and grateful and, honestly, gratitude and contentment poems are boring as fuck. I'd rather hike or look at nature than write a poem about enjoying life.

I’m back to writing persona poetry. I recently finished my ridiculous book of athlete persona poems. I’ve also been writing poetry hoping to explore the idea of being alive through singularity—a human whose body is now a machine and can’t die.

I don’t know, I’m bored by myself now when it comes to poetry. I am writing more songs because music can capture the vibrancy of life and its celebrations. So this might be the last personal poetry collection I publish until I have a midlife crisis. Until then, I hope this book reaches readers and I hope my other poetry books give people a laugh—the safest but most enjoyable form of intimacy.

Christoph Paul

Column by Christoph Paul

Christoph Paul is the Managing Editor and owner of CLASH Books, who have published over 60 books and have been covered by NPR, Poets & Writers, Rolling Stone, Believer Magazine, Oprah Magazine, The Observer, Fangoria, and Publisher's Weekly. The press has had books translated into Spanish, French, and Italian. He has been editing books in almost every genre for over a decade. As an author, he won a humor award and had viral cult success under a pen name. He is the lead singer and bass player of the rock band The Dionysus Effect, who have received positive reviews in Loudwire, EARMILK, and Red Rock Magazine. He sometimes writes songs about the books he publishes because even artists are inspired by their day jobs. Follow him on Twitter @christophpaul_ @clashbooks @dionysuseffect.

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