My mother used to ask me about my penchant for writing about darkness. Truth is, I’m a miserable halfwit, and I liked it. I enjoyed scrounging up all my hormonal, adolescent emotions and creating a monster of them like they were papier-mache. Over the years, this little outlet landed me in the offices of guidance counselors, therapists and school principals, concerned for the welfare of my classmates and, perhaps moreso, me.
Over the years, I lost touch with my teenage angst, only to have it replaced with adult responsibilities, children in my care and a growing sense of political disenfranchisement. Childhood rolled out the carpet for certain events that forced its exodus. Friends passed, a few passed away. I fell out of love more than I ever managed to stumble into it, except on rare occasion.
National Poetry Month is upon us once again, and its place in the pantheon of written works has never been more profound. Vehicle for the romance it’s known for aside, it is a tool of protest, and a tenet of free speech. It serves a reminder of our fortune, that a few scribbled stanzas circulated publicly doesn’t end in a prison cell, as in the case of Li Befeng, a Chinese poet who was jailed 12 years by the state.
We are raised to fear the darkness inside ourselves, to suppress our deepest secrets for the sake of social acceptance, so to least upset the natural order of things. But in these last few years, our world has grown uncertain. Wars rage against political correctness and the Western image alike, both at home and abroad.
I accepted my darkness in becoming a writer, so I could travel to ethically questionable places in my mind and conquer them. I waived empathy for emotional endurance, because I believed poetry can be a catalyst for change, however small; that it could be more than tired love notes to your unrequited.
I am grateful for National Poetry Month, this opportunity to show a small thanks for our craft. Whether you are an auteur of the erotic or vanilla’s vanguard, a sender of flowery sonnets or the psoriasis of sentiment like me, we are all poets in some way, and should be grateful for the opportunity to operate between the lines.
If the next stage of humanity were to find even part of what I’d written, some context to the collapse that formed their circumstances, I would hope it shows some of us kept fighting for the good in the world we inhabited.
Free speech is a beautiful thing.