I went to a poetry reading tonight, and it did me a world of good. Why? Because it puts a human face to the daunting concept of "writer." I can read words on paper and in electronic media, thousands of words, millions of words, and they're wonderful. I enjoy poetry and finding poetry buried within prose, little gems of descriptions and breathtaking metaphors that leave me saying, I could never do that.
But to see a writer in person, telling about the inspiration behind a poem or set of poems, hearing them read the words the way they sounded in their heads when they composed them, is humanizing. One of the poets tonight wasn't one of the best readers I've heard, but his poems had some playful humor and interesting recurring themes. He even brought a visual aid for one. He seemed nervous, barely pausing between poems and explanations of poems.
The second poet, more well known, was slightly absent-minded and not quite over the recent burst of fame that has come his way. He read well and had interesting anecdotes about the inspiration for and previous reactions to the poems he read. He explained one poem, an anecdote involving a quote attributed to Dennis Hoffman, then remembered another poem he intended to read, after which he would return to the originally intended poem. In his absent-mindedness, he was as human as the nervous poet.
It was more than their minor foibles that encouraged me, though. I was listening to their subjects and wordplay. I could do that, I thought. Often, poetry involves the mundane, presented in a new way, a scene from a small town, perhaps, or an incident from a childhood game. In poetry, moreso than prose, I think, there's license to play with the words and embellish details, to let fancy unleash a series of surreal or even downright bizarre imagery.
It's all a matter of being open to those opportunities and recording them. My biggest barrier is sheer laziness. But I've been thinking lately, and in the midst of a burst of inspiration that's resulted in the beginning of stories and poems, I realized that whatever I do professionally needs to relate to words in some way or else provide me with enough fodder to scribble words on my spare time. There's this nagging little impulse that says to get back to writing more seriously and go on for more grad school, get a terminal degree, succumb to academia's talons and teach writing in some capacity. I don't know. There are other paths, but this one shrieks the loudest.
It all goes back to words, and tonight's poetry reading added more fuel to the fire of the writing impulse I can't--and don't want to--shake. There are too many unfinished documents on my computer and far, far too many documents that have yet to be started. I may not be the world's best writer, but like any other carbon-based humanoid, I have potential if I work at it.
Now playing: Hot Water Music - She Takes It So Well