I remember one of the first poems I ever wrote.
It was crap.
Granted, I was just a kid and figured the epitome of poetry culminated in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (no offense, Dr. Seuss). Of course, my following years consisted of more profound readings: Shakespeare, Whitman, Dickinson, Poe, Yeats, etc.
Honestly, half of these authors’ writings I studied didn’t resonate with me. Old English, complex themes, dark emotions–I was too focused on perfecting my 3-point shot on the court–but little did I know how these readings for English class implanted a seed within my mind and heart.
Not until my mid-twenties did I discover a passion for reading dead poets’ words. I finally began to comprehend their work because I was experiencing similar joys and heartbreak. My admiration for poetry–from a seed earlier sown–began to sprout and grow. I no longer required a teacher to assign me poetry; I chose to purchase the books on my own. And with every stanza I read, the more I aspired to craft the beauty, mystery and truth of these legendary poets.
Here are some truths I’ve learned about poetry:
- There are two types of people: Those who love reading it and those who hate it. If you’re a talented enough writer, you can seduce both.
- As a poet, expect fame only after death.
- Earning revenue from poetry isn’t achievable via writing alone; it requires disciplined entrepreneurship.
- As incredibly terrifying as it is, you must write your truth.
- Poetry is a powerful language–one capable of transforming lives.
On January 29, I pulled a heavy, old typewriter I was gifted for Christmas down from my closet’s top shelf. I sat it on my office desk and stared at it for a good 10 minutes.
I hadn’t the slightest idea on how it operated. It is mechanical, not electronic. It uses ribbon and if you make a typo, you’re pretty much screwed. After about an hour of fiddling, I taught myself the gist of it and decided that typing poetry to avoid schoolwork was about the most productive form of procrastination for a writer.
I guess most would call this a hobby, but I’ve come to rely on my poetry as a means to express myself, to connect with others and at times, to survive. I know–dramatic. But we all have something we turn to when we’re feeling the world’s frigidness instead of warmth. And I chose this as mine… Or maybe it chose me.
And what started as a few published lines of wordplay and rhyme on an Instagram account, slowly evolved into personal stories of intimacy and experience. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from writing poetry is the more honest I am with myself, while risking my vulnerability to the world, the more lives I will impact through my words.
As intimidating as it is for me to publish a piece of my poetry–to bear my truth, my soul–for everyone around the world to read, especially friends and family close to me, I courageously continue to do so. Why? Because the aftermath always helps more than it hurts–both others and myself.
Writing poetry heals–allowing me to reflect, forgive and move forward. But the most miraculous aspect of this journey revolves around the writing community I’ve become a part of and how a group of online strangers from around the world relate and connect to one another through our shared love of poetry.
I began writing rhymes to express my emotions in an attempt to mimic and honor deceased poets. But unlike the aforementioned, I’m conveniently able to access and utilize technology connecting billions of people around the globe with my writing. And I’ve only just begun to touch lives through my words. But every day, more and more people are reading, commenting and contacting me. Every day, someone is moved by a poem I’ve written and requests permission to share it with others.
Below are a few of my followers who asked to share my work:
The truth is, you never know the impression you’re capable of making on the world until you devote yourself to your passion, whether or not others only consider it a hobby. My dedication to poetry and my love of words hold the power to influence an individual, which I’ve witnessed transform into masses.
And it all started with a crappy poem.
Read more of my poetry here: https://www.instagram.com/jlsmith_odist/