I’d read almost no poetry at all (aside from the Psalms) when I began writing as a child, and I found the expression to be a little like that sneaky square of toilet paper that sticks to the heel of your shoe when you leave the bathroom at school. I didn’t really realize what I was doing, but I wanted to create and communicate such masses of things — writing was the only medium that consistently and successfully drew me in. There was a captivating rhythm – a flow in it, like water. No other expression became conveyance like that.
I decided to nurture my own style while demanding the absolute best I could give from myself at any time. I knew that somewhere, somehow, I would be able to grasp the sense I needed of a working level of quality that felt complete. I revised and reviewed and rewrote and wrote anew. Receipts, paper towels, coffee shop napkins, bits of schedules and even books have born the brunt of my imagination and the continual tough love needed in the creation of my own language.
I hope it speaks to you.
Below is something really affirming I found on being a poet when I was a teenager.
“A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through words.
This may sound easy. It isn’t.
A lof of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling—not knowing or believing or thinking.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people : but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time—and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.
If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.
And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is : do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world—unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.
Does this sound dismal? It isn’t.
It’s the most wonderful life on earth.
Or so I feel.”
~ e.e. cummings
*****From the Ottawa Hills Spectator, October 26, 1955