Why I'm Writing Poetry Again: A Celebration of National Poetry Day
I’ve been a poet almost as long as I’ve been a person who breathes.
Not an acclaimed poet; not even a published poet; but a poet nonetheless, someone who finds solace and freedom in playing with words, in language too pretty for prose, in different structures and stanzas and formats.
All through my years in school, poetry was a lifeline. It was rare for a day to pass where I didn’t write some kind of poem, even just a little four-line stanza on a napkin at lunch. I wrote about fights with friends; cute boys; depression; the moon in a German sky; I wrote about everything and nothing.
Poetry was how I connected to the world, and then suddenly — I stopped.
The years that have passed since I graduated college, almost five of them, have been some of the most awful for my mental health. And they’ve also seen me slowly but surely stop writing poetry. I don’t think I’ve been depressed because I haven’t been writing; nor do I think I haven’t been writing because I’ve been depressed. I think both statements are true and false in equal measure.
See, poetry was always a way for me to connect to the world. To see the beauty in the mundane, to find peace in the chaos, to coexist with everyone around me. And depression is like a wall in my brain that keeps me from doing that. If I don’t see the beauty, how can I write a poem about it? If I’m not writing a poem about beauty, how can I see it?
Last August, I decided to force the issue and do a poem-a-day challenge for myself. For each of the 31 days of the month, I would write a poem.
I did not write a poem a day.
Nor were even half the poems any good. In terms of winning the challenge or penning world-rocking poetry, the challenge was not a success. But in terms of getting me back into the habit of looking at the world through a poetic lens? In terms of reminding me that there is beauty, yes, there, just around the bend or up ahead or to the left? In terms of getting me into the practice of putting one word after the other.
A break in the flow.
A new start?
It was a giant success. I’ve been writing poetry again since August. In fact, a few weeks ago I was in a Lyft driving through Manhattan, looking out the window at the scaffolding and the mounds of trash, taking in the pedestrians flagrantly ignoring road signs to cross the street, and the germ of a poem started up in my mind.
And next thing you know, I wrote and posted a whole piece to Instagram.
This Saturday is the UN’s World Poetry Day, a holiday described as “an occasion to honor poets, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, promote the reading, writing and teaching of poetry, foster the convergence between poetry and other arts such as theatre, dance, music and painting, and raise the visibility of poetry in the media.”
I’ll be celebrating poetry and its ability to bring people together, and most of all how it reminds me of the beauty in the little things. Especially in these days, living through a global pandemic, practicing social isolation, it’s hard to remember that joy can exist in the same spaces as fear, anger, uncertainty.
Poetry helps me (and hopefully all of us) remember that.
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