The Long Road To Poetry … And To Myself

I started writing poetry by accident.

I didn’t know I was writing poetry, I was just writing down my feelings in a way that felt pretty to me. I didn’t have any self-belief, and when you don’t have self-belief you don’t know or realise or think that you are doing something worth a damn. You don’t think anything you do is worth a damn.

I’m not an academic. I don’t have any notable education, I barely survived high school. The only subject I somewhat enjoyed was English and I left school feeling terribly inadequate. During our graduation speeches, we were required to say what we wanted to ‘be’ when we grew up. I liked reading and writing so I said I wanted to be a rock & roll journalist, like William from Almost Famous. What I meant, though, was that I didn’t believe I’d ever amount to anything at all.

In my late teens or early twenties I became obsessed (as I do) with The Doors and specifically with Jim Morrison. The first poetry book I ever bought was The Lords and the New Creatures and it was purely because of my Morrison fixation – I wanted to better understand him and his genius.

So, I bought The Lords and the New Creatures and I read it and I didn’t understand it. But I liked it. The words and the imagery stirred me. I thought it was very obscure and, given that I had no self-belief and no understanding of poetics, I assumed that it was a shortcoming of mine and that I lacked any real comprehension. I simply thought that I was not smart enough to appreciate poetry.

These days I know that poetry is so vast and subjective, the styles are diverse, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense. Or, at least, a lot of it is open to personal interpretation – that it should be felt and not necessarily understood in the way that I’ve always thought you had to understand things. It was a very self-limiting thought process. I realise now that most of my thoughts have been self-limiting.

As it were, I began reading poetry accidentally and without discernment. From there I branched out to poets like Bukowski. I would see snippets and phrases and lines of his work and it resonated with me. It was raw and it was honest – it was fucking tragic, but beautiful. I felt in Bukowski what I felt in Tom Waits’ lyrics and that was something familiar to me, something I’d grown up with. It was also a little easier to make sense of and digest than Morrison’s vague musings.

The more I read and explored, the more confidence I gained. The more confidence I gained, the more pleasure I felt. Love was blooming and fire was burning in my heart.

My exploration into poetry had begun, but even then I didn’t know that I could write poetry. It would take another seven years, at least, for me to realise that perhaps I too could call myself a poet one day.

In that time I wrote a lot, predominately while I travelled. I wrote poems in Paris and I wrote poems in Hong Kong. I wrote poems in New Orleans. Occasionally I wrote poems about lost love and heartache. Yet I still didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I didn’t show anyone, I didn’t think my writing was good. I didn’t believe that my words were a genre or that they could be respected as an art form.

My love affair with poetry continued to flourish organically, mostly through musicians. Leonard Cohen was another. His work spoke volumes to me. And I realised that maybe if I practiced enough I could do that too, or that I was already beginning to do that without knowing.

So I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and it wasn’t until my thirtieth birthday, when my husband gifted me a typewriter, that I began to share my work. I created a modest and experimental Instagram page and I’ve been quietly posting content ever since. That was almost two years ago now.

It’s been a long road to poetry … and to myself. This is just the beginning of a journey I hope lasts a lifetime.

Today, after more than a decade, I’m ready to be a real poet. Whatever that means.

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