An Ode to Poetry (and Carrie Bradshaw)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In the second Sex and the City movie, Carrie Bradshaw (who, in case you haven’t been keeping up, is now married) runs into her old flame Aidan while she’s in Abu Dhabi with the girls. Against better judgment, and the advice of her friends, Carrie decides to get all dolled up and met Aidan for a late night dinner and at the end of the night they kiss.  

Carrie admits she went out and lip-locked with Aidan because she hadn’t felt like herself lately. She was losing her sense of self. Two weeks ago I was tempted to run to the arms of an old love for the same reason.  Sort of.

While vacationing in Louisville, Ky., (yeah, not quite Abu Dhabi) I thought about returning to my first love – poetry.

I used to be a poet.

For years I lived my life in verse, my speech sprinkled with alliteration.

I read poetry every day and never went to bed without putting down on paper at least one line.

In my purse I carried a notebook filled with phrases that would eventually become stanzas that would eventually become poems that I hoped would eventually become a chapbook.

My passion for poetry began at an early age. I was in elementary school and my best friend was moving away. We had a fight just before he left. I wrote him a poem to apologize. And then I kept writing and writing and writing. Later I was introduced to Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni and I kept reading and reading and reading.

In college I minored in creative writing and saw my poems in print for the first time in my university’s literary journal. In graduate school I wrote, taught, and performed poetry through June Jordan’s Poetry for the People program. In Louisville, Ky., I was a featured act at a spoken word event for the first time and was asked to perform at poetry festivals. I was even paid for my poetry for the first time.

Then one day I stopped being a poet.

I remember when my passion for poetry started to wan. I got a column at the newspaper where I worked at the time and through that I felt like I was reaching people and connecting with people like never before and in a way I never could with poetry. And one day, quite ironically while I was at a spoken word night, I made a conscious decision to quit poetry and focus on non-fiction. And I never looked back, until two weeks ago.

Like Carrie, I haven’t felt like myself lately. I don’t feel like a writer. I’m a teacher now, not a reporter. Writing is no longer my full time job. It’s something I have to squeeze into my free time and, therefore, feels like a hobby instead of my art. I blog often and freelance when I can, but still when I utter the words, “I’m a writer,” it feels like a lie.

Two weeks ago I started wondering if poetry could help me get my groove back. After all, it was my first love. I came up with this idea to write poem a day in April, which is National Poetry Month. Then I remembered Carrie and Aidan in Abu Dhabi and I realized this project would be the equivalent of making out with poetry for a month.

Yes, poetry was my first love, but we don’t all marry our high school sweethearts.

But the relationships of our younger years are important because they teach us how to love. Poetry taught me how to be a real writer. Poetry taught me to write for writing’s sake. Everything around me was a poem waiting to be drafted. I didn’t write poetry to win adoring audiences or to make money. I wrote poetry because I just couldn’t help myself.

To feel like a writer, to feel like myself again, I must get back to that. I must write blog posts with no thought of page views and pen reported and personal essays with little regard for freelance gigs.  I must write simply because I must write. And doing this will be the best way to honor poetry this month.

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