I hate poetry. It’s for cowards that don’t have the balls to say what things directly and tell you what they really want to say. That’s what I used to think. I thought that for the years I’ve been writing my ramblings and prose because a lot of the standard poets I’d been exposed to were boring. All fluff and evasive.
Let me back up. As a teenager I loved poetry. I loved rock music and I especially loved the lyrics. I loved the Beatles. I had no idea what their words meant all of the time but I got something out of it. In the 8th grade I discovered Jim Morrison. Well, the Doors then Jim. I followed the trend of what everyone else was listening to and since there wasn’t much great popular music my Middle School and High School were into classic rock. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC DC, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors etc. All great lyrics. I loved the simplicity of some and the complex descriptives of others.
Then I found the book called No One Here Gets Out Alive, the biography of Jim Morrison. I fell in love with his persona. I bought every Doors album and learned every lyric. I bought Morrison’s poetry book. Morrison led me to reading William Blake and Dylan Thomas. This was poetry I thought was cool. Many people I know call him a hack. Maybe he was but so am I and almost every artist, musician, writer, director etc. that I love.
Jump ahead to my mid 20s. I lived with a couple of friends and one was into a lot of the art, music and books that I was. He had spent his entire life building up knowledge of beat writers and their influences and punk rock and it’s influences. I grilled him for knowledge and books and records. I learned constantly about writers and bands I heard of but didn’t get into. He was my muse.
It was my second childhood of many more to come. I was making art constantly, listening to the Sex Pistols, The New York Dolls, the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith and reading William S Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and eventually Arthur Rimbaud and Jean Genet. It was a learning experience I will never forget. I started writing poetry, lyrics and short stories. They weren’t the best but I was trying to find my voice if I had one.
I started showing my art in galleries, coffee shops and book stores. I was actively participating in poetry readings. It was one of my many new beginnings. These artists and my friend have become part of me on a deeper level that is still with me today.
Years past and I evolved into other creative activities. Life started taking over like working and paying bills and girlfriends. I kept going. From that point of my life I knew I was an artist and had to create on some level or another.
Back to poetry. I went through a period and all I wrote were prose. Mostly simple stories and journals sometimes incorporating heavy descriptives then back to simple writing. I was developing as an artist, a writer, whether I liked it or not. Even when I’m not drwing or writing
About 9 or 10 years ago I got heavy into writing and I wrote and wrote non stop sometimes. That’s when I stopped liking poetry. That’s when I came up with my opinions stated in the first paragraph. That’s when I thought all poetry sucks. Then I remembered Charels Bukowski and a lesser known and in my opinion the greatest poet ever, Steven Jesse Bernstein. I prefer their prose but I love the way they write poetry. No rules. Just say what you want however you want.
My life’s mission statement is stolen from a poem by Patti Smith’s poem calle Babalogue that she recite before performing her song Rick n Roll Nigger. “I am an American Artist. I have no guilt.” I try and remind myself of that everyday.
The reason I was thinking about all of this is because I was at my favorite coffee shop last night for internet access since I don’t have it at home and I discovered that there was an open mic planned for the night. I hate open mics these days. I wasn’t in the mood to hear a bunch of people singing and guitars etc. then I found out it was a poetry and spoken word open mic. I thought this might be more interesting. I over heard some of the people that were there and went back and forth whether they are full of shit or interesting. I went with interesting.
I listened and there were some pretty good poets that also knew how to read it aloud. I listened to each poet and considered reading. Once I mentioned it to the older woman sitting next to me she gave me a push. I was actually a little afraid of reading. I picked out a few of more short more powerful and humorous pieces and eventually I read them. I could feel the energy of the room rise with each word that came out of my mouth as I read from laptop. I was nervous but still pulled through. I tried to be humble afterwards knowing how great I was, I am, as people complimented my poems.
It was a good night. I felt good having read after years of being out of the scene. It got me to thinking about poetry and my personal history and my mission statement. I am an American Artist. I have no guilt.
I might even go back next time.