I was talking to a friend recently about professional money-making pursuits versus artistic pursuits. During this conversation, I mentioned my poetic roots. She asked if I still write, because I never talk about poetry.
I could easily write a book about my history with poetry, as it is connected in some way to everything I’ve done since high school. But for the sake of brevity, I’ve decided to be…um…brief.
In the Beginning
I started writing poetry my senior year of high school in the form of random notes to my friends. I would try to think of the most bizarre relationships and metaphors and intertwine them with actual letters that were supposed to say something. They were pretty nonsensical, but fun. And my friends seemed to enjoy my ramblings.
I also started to find Shakespeare more interesting. I really got into Hamlet, and for an English class writing assignment I wrote a couple sonnets that turned out well considering my inexperience. And I got a positive response from my teacher.
From Engineering to Poetry
My freshmen year of college I studied engineering Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. During calculus class I would write poems. I took this as a sign and dropped engineering, transferred to the University of Pittsburgh, and took up English Writing as a degree, with a concentration in poetry.
I did well in my poetry workshops, and my instructors were supportive. And I provided decent feedback to my peers. I tried not to worry about the lack of poetry jobs in the help wanted ads.
Getting Paid (very little) to Write
After I graduated, I got an internship with United Press International (UPI) writing wire stories. This made me feel like a real writer. I wrote a couple political satire poems that were published in the now defunct Gridlock & Load online magazine. I also started writing a lot more short fiction, which I also studied in college.
I got a job with a weekly newsletter after UPI, but burnt out pretty quickly. I didn’t like writing for other people. Lucky for me, I found a job as a web producer, and outside of work focused on my poetry.
Lots of Poems, Only Rejections
My plan was to make writing a daily habit. I figured the more I wrote, the better I would become. I woke up early each morning and wrote at least two poems before work. While this made me very prolific, I produced a lot of bad poems and didn’t have time to edit them so they stayed bad.
Using the Poet’s Market, I identified small publications that might accept my work. All I got were rejection letters. So after a year of two poems a day, I took a break.
My creative energy was then split between a new writing project: screenwriting and web design. But I still wrote poems, just less frequently.
So I Married a Poet
Yes, it’s true. We were introduced because we both liked poetry, and I proposed through a poem. However, overall she did not like my poetry, and did not think I was a true poet or understood poetry. Because of this, I didn’t write much while we were together. And go figure, it didn’t work out.
My Latest Efforts
A few months ago I was invited to participate in a project developed by an old friend called 200words. It involves writing a 200-word or less piece based on a given one-word topic. The two topics I have responded to thus far are circus and infection. Both entries are poems.
So yes, I still write, albeit not that often. But it’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever completely stop. Why? That’s a question for another post.