I’ve been drawn to rhyming word things since I was very little, and my mother gave me a 100 famous poems book ( that one ) when I was 10. I don’t know why the poetry had such an effect on me, though maybe it was that it was kind of like music but with its own specific imagination?
I think I was 13 when I wrote my first long poem. By 15 I’d run into modern poetry and just thought it was the coolest way to show words… everything about how the words were on the page just knocked me out. Smarter kids than me were starting to write novels… well, one smart kid I knew, anyway. But, I really liked how you could song in words with poetry, and say stuff better than you could say it in a diary ( boring ).
By high-school I was full-out emo-arty and insufferably shy and private and needy. Today, I’m not so shy.
Back then, you could still read Pound and Burnt Norton and nobody’d care if that was hip or not.
It helped that non-conformists united in secret lunch-time circles and said stuff about jocks. Which is to say that poetry has always been an elitist thing for me, even when I thought we were supposed to write so that anyone would understand us. What were we writing? — what was I writing…? Kind of word-clothing to look modern in?
Later, Chris Brookhouse at Harvard was the first poet to actually see something in my writing that was like future-ability to write poetry. Here I am, in this writing section with jocks and emo-girls feeding jock’s egos, and I’m writing sometimes a very simple kind of self-enclosed song, and Chris defended it against the jock protest that it didn’t talk about serious things. Like, what I began to see was that writing poetry was the xray of your serious, however much you were wound into inner relationship with emotion and wording… that seriousness was how you were hardwired into making words or making hand gestures…
Later, I went through a lot of life and ended up not able to say anything that would cause anything good to happen to me. At the point where words don’t work anymore I started writing poetry. I was 58 years old by then. Either I’m a late developer and with a good vocabulary got from chatting my life away with interesting people, able to construct poems with consciousness… or, it just really takes this long to give up having a life and start realizing one through work. Poetry writing is really hard and painful, really brain-stretching stuff, and so hurtful as you create a space neutral and beautiful enough to see what you really are.
I’m a poet when I’m actually writing a poem. Afterwards, I’m just as much a tourist in the poem as anyone else. That’s why I need this kind of dialog with other poets, to find hints that I was real or not real when I was back in poetry mind.