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I never realized that poetry was so much more than just pretty words presented in a pretty way until one of my roommates showed me her Tumblr blog where she posts some of the poetry she writes.
At first, I was really apprehensive. I was having visions of my high school English classes, analyzing poetry I didn’t like written by old men who died what seemed like forever ago. I was having visions of Elizabethan sonnets declaring undying love for some virtuous young maid or an epic story about an unbelievable battle fought by a brave young knight. At the time, I had a hard time believing that someone as young and fun as she is could do something I perceived as so boring and mundane.
Then, to my great surprise, she clicked on a link to YouTube and we watched a short clip of a girl reading her own poetry at a competition. Paradigm shift? Oh, just a little bit.
I had no idea what I was in for at first. I thought for sure I’d be politely telling my roommate how nice that was, trying to cover my apparent disinterest. However, with the way the girl in the YouTube video spoke the lines, I found myself completely enthralled by her account of her mother’s eating disorder and family dynamics. With almost a musical-feeling lilt, this young poet not only divulged a very sensitive part of her soul to the audience, but she also did it in such a way that I couldn’t help but want to meet this girl, talk with her, be her friend. Since it was late and that was definitely not something a normal person would do, I spent the rest of my night, which should’ve been passed doing homework, finding and watching videos of spoken-word poetry on YouTube, Tumblr — everywhere and anywhere that could supply me with a video of poets reading poetry.
After that night, I was like an addict looking for her next fix of heart-wrenching, gut-twisting, tear-jerking poetry. Much to my roommate’s pleasure, I made myself a Tumblr immediately, following her and other poets she knew of and liked on there. Have I gone even 12 hours without scrolling through my Tumblr dashboard since then? Nope, nope, I have not!
After seeing how voraciously I devoured other people’s poetry, my roommate started encouraging me to write my own. She showed me how the best poetry came from the deepest, most true, most universal feelings. Good poetry teaches through the screen or paper and grabs the reader by the heartstrings and pulls on them. A good poet knows how to convey what they feel in such a way that the reader feels it as intimately as the writer does. A good poet can also make a reader remember what they’ve felt before, or make them hope for feelings they haven’t felt before.
Not going to lie, I was not nearly as sold on the idea of exposing my innermost feelings and experiences, even after I’d tried it out a few times.
Poetry isn’t all form and rhyme and old men lamenting about nature. A lot of the poetry I enjoy the most isn’t the kind of poetry my high school English teacher would’ve touched with a 10-foot pole. Sure, there isn’t the form, the rhyme, the symbolism of older styles of poetry, but it pulls out emotions and expresses things that normal modes of communication can’t.