Friend of a Poet
It’s a dangerous thing, this poetry business.
I read it because I like it. It is universal in its ability to connect us with one another. I was once stopped dead in my tracks by an Edward Hirsch poem about a moment with his aging father, wondering how my very personal experience was found on pages written by a non-religious Jewish man from another generation who lives and works a thousand miles away.
Poetry feeds my inner romantic, denying the dominant rational side of myself to insist that there remains passion, beauty, miracles and fantasies. A good Robert Frost poem about the mundane things of life turns those very things into something spectacular and worthy of wonder.
I write poetry – terrible poetry – because sometimes it’s the only way to get the words out. Forcing the meanings into the right words in the right places becomes the thing that unleashes the sentiment that won’t let go of my soul. Often, it doesn’t happen until very late at night, after I’ve taken my nighttime meds and crawled into bed, typing through bleary eyes.
The most vulnerable thing, I’ve learned, is not reading someone else’s tale and finding my own, or smearing my own words on paper and letting someone see what has been bouncing around my head. It’s being friends with a poet. Not because he writes far better than I do, but because he cannot help but write, and the mix of emotions and sentiments occasionally include my own. Years of English classes in school taught me to try to read between the lines and speculate about exactly what the poet is writing about, but nothing prepared me for knowing what the poet is writing about. When I don’t have to wonder what spurred the words and instead, I am aware of the back story. I never expected to be the pronoun in anyone’s poem.
That’s something that can knock you flat on your butt.