Don’t ever think you’re alone here,
We’re just trapped in different hells,
And people aren’t against you dear,
They’re just all for themselves.
There’s a scene in Shakespeare in Love (1998) when Viola (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is sitting in her room reading through the newly completed, hand written script of Romeo and Juliet. There are tears in her eyes and she’s so engrossed in the story that she doesn’t notice her nurse coming and going or her dinner tray arriving or leaving. Granted, within the context of the movie, that script was more than a story. It was her life, written out in poetry.
That scene is me with almost any book of poems. The physical world around me falls away while beautifully arranged words lull me into a place within myself that I can’t reach any other way. A place that’s a little bit calm, a little bit sad, full of knowing smiles, reawakened memories and a quiet understanding that there, in that moment, everything is okay. I read novels to live lives I would never otherwise be able to. I read short stories and essays for different perspectives and to create a wider understanding of my own world. I read poetry for escape.
But while I dig poetry, I suck at writing it. Like a lot of people I tried my hand at poetry in my early teens, trying to find an outlet for my angst and drama, thinking that my inability to communicate my existence to others would be remedied in elegant fashion… Yeah. The first couple of poems I shared were quickly labeled purple prose, which to a thin-skinned teenager was enough to bring my poetic endeavors to a screeching hault. I went back to my collection some months after setting the art aside. They were really bad.
My inability to create poetry never really dampened my love of others’ though . As a kid, I started with Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry, working my way through dozens of different authors and styles, studying classics like The Raven and the Jabberwocky (that one was “fun” to diagram). Then there was the moment that I realized writing poetry was often self-therapy. I took a women’s and gender studies class in college that spent some time doing self-explorations. We worked in groups to help each other prepare for the presentation that would wrap up that part of the class, and one of my groupmates let us read some of the poetry she intended to use. I remember feeling like her syntex was choppy without apparent reason, but in the course of the conversation, she said,
“These are some of my lighter pieces. I have a lot more, but they’re too dark for here. It wouldn’t be appropriate to share them.”
And I thought, “Wow.” Not only had she taken her troubles to poetry but she had developed her skills and grown as a person until she was comfortable sharing these pieces of herself with others. That’s one of the most beautiful things about writing, whether you write poetry or prose – we’re all a little broken, and at our core, we write to ease some of that hurt. We bleed sitting at the computer until we’re making a living at it because that’s the only thing we’ve been born to do. Just write.
Check out my Pinterest poetry board