To me, poetry is everywhere. It is the morning dog walks, the street I live on which is really an alley that usually smells like piss, the man standing on the adjacent roof staring into the next window at my Airbnb guests’ asses, making rice, making up excuses, making someone smile accidentally. It matters to me to translate all of this by putting it into words, because language is the main way, perhaps the only way, for humans to bring a concept, a feeling, a situation, a thing, anything, from perception to understanding. (What I’m saying is, poetry as we more formally know it, is this translation.)
With this, I could go really far into the interior universe, trying to figure out why understanding is important. I think that would be a digression from what I want to say, though, which is that there is a reason I have thought about and asked the question why does poetry matter in the first place. The reason is that most people don’t read poetry. It has become pretty obsolete as consumable media by being deemed as too difficult 🙁
This perception isn’t unfounded, per se. When most people first encounter poetry with a developed brain (by this I mean to exclude children’s books), they are studying it in school, and they begin with stuff that was written a long time ago. Because language is constantly evolving, it makes sense that something like Shakespeare or Beowulf or even Edgar Allen Poe is not intuitively understood. Further, in the early 20th century, a group of poets decided that poetry was an art meant for the elite class only, and as a result, much of it was written so that only those in that class of people who could afford an expensive education could understand it. That’s fucked up.
What I’m getting at is that if the introduction to poetry was, instead, the often highly accessible contemporary stuff, maybe the world would not be so averse to it. Like, imagine if the introduction to mathematics was calculus instead of arithmetic. It doesn’t make sense to do it that way, because you have to build off of your understanding arithmetic to even begin to comprehend calculus. I imagine the same is true for poetry.
Whatever. While it is too bad that it is taught that way, giving people a false perception that ALL poetry is a type of media that takes extensive work and studying in order to understand, it is the way it is.
I want to change that, however I can. Why? Personally, I think many people would find their connection with the outside world is enhanced by reading poetry, so they are royally jipping themselves by ignoring it. That’s why I started Sex on Sundaze, my poetry project where I write on people’s skin. Short, straightforward poems written on boobs and thighs and asses in the jungle or on the couch or standing at the edge of land looking off into the biggest ocean on earth. The marketing is a means to an end. If people like looking at images, bodies, often scantily clad, then I will write poetry there so that they will look at it and perhaps give it a chance.
That’s also why I designed my first poetry book with a structure that is meant to be fun. You can either read the book front to back, like normal, or you can follow the instructions at the end of each page. Because the book is a story in poems, the idea is that each reading will provide a different story. Think choose-your-own-adventure-ish style.
Almost a month ago, I started a Kickstarter campaign to help raise the money to publish the book. Maybe you’re familiar with the life I’ve chosen for the time being, where I put writing and poetry before a more traditional career, eating a lot of canned tuna and white rice? Haha, I don’t mind, but publishing a book was out of the question without some crowdfunding, and so my Kickstarter for You Had Me At Topography was born. One of the things I did to promote the campaign was make a video where I asked a few people why poetry matters to them. It was awesome to hear what people had to say:
Well, I reached my goal with lots of time to spare. Woohoo!!! (seriously!!!). Maybe poetry does matter to more people than I thought? Or, I just have a lot of really loving and supportive friends and family around me. Which one it is, I suppose I will never know…
Anyway, that’s when I thought of another idea, something that would make the book even more attractive to a wider audience: what if I include a soundtrack, or really two soundtracks (one for each reading of the book) to accompany it, like the music in a movie helps or guides people so that they can more easily connect with it and understand it. That’s where I am now, super close to making that happen 🙂
Now I’m sitting here thinking, I didn’t really intend for this to just be a Kickstarter promotion in all seriousness, (though if you want to donate, there’s definitely karma and gifts in it for you, hahah), so why the eff do I feel like a salesperson all of a sudden? The world is so tricky. Luckily, this struggle is also poetry, just like the dog walking and the pissy street I live on, so I have to be ok with it (:
I want to (almost) close with a quote from someone who didn’t get a chance to participate in the video, but articulated rather poetically why poetry matters in a recent text:
It’s a-maz-ing how texting used to be considered categorically trivial, but the truth is, you can get a text that brings magic into the day. Which brings me to my next point: why does texting matter? Just kidding.
But for real, why did I write this blog? I wanted to talk about why poetry matters, not so much to convince anyone that it does, but to convince people at least to think about why it might.