I don’t know who to attribute the following quote to, but it briefly appeared on the screen during the movie “The Big Short.”
“Truth is like poetry. Most people can’t f**cking stand poetry.”
So much brilliance has never been uttered in so few words. We, as a society, expect truth in all aspects of our daily life. We expect it from the institutions who serve us, those employees who work alongside us, our friends, and from those whom we love. We demand truth in all things and demonize and damn those who don’t speak it, in many regards, rightfully so.
We do have a collective reaction to the truth though. When our institutions fail us, we can hardly contain our anger. When our employees do less than what is expected, we demand compensation or for things to be corrected. When friends come up short, we implore they work harder. When our partners let us down, we preach or act like a disappointed parent. Again, these reactions are more than justifiable, but I would like to use this post to focus on the second sentence and its relationship to the truth.
Truth is people don’t read poetry anymore. John Adams once said, “You will never be alone with a poet in your pocket.” For me this is true, but for many poetry has fallen out of fashion. It isn’t shared across the internet like online magazine articles, videos, or pictures. It lives a secluded life regaled to blogs and dedicated websites. For many, poetry’s time has come to pass. I understand this feeling, but I wholeheartedly disagree.
While most people can’t handle truth when it is delivered in the form of failure or disappointment, poetry speaks truth to power. It challenges institutions. It demands that they be better. Its verses speak to the joy of work and the difference one can make. Poetry longs for friendship and the joy of belonging. Poetry is a language of love. It does more to describe affection than any other art form. Poetry is truth.
Poetry can also save lives. On more than one occasion, it has saved mine. It has delivered me from dark places. Places I was never meant to travel. Places, once I could sum up in words and view from 10,000 feet, I could allow myself to escape. On more than one occasion in my life, thoughts of violent disruption to myself have crossed my mind. In all of those circumstances, I raced for a pen to capture my thoughts. More often than not, my savior was delivered to me not from above, but from the power of a pen meeting paper. I am who I am, because of the power of poetry. I am alive, because of a forgotten art form.
When I view the world, I process it through words, prose, poetry, and lines yet to be written. I try my best to quiet my mind, live in the moment, be present, and record what I am thinking and feeling. It is a trick I have developed after years of letting my emotions get the best of me. Like a giddy child on Christmas morning, I can hardly contain my excitement when it comes time to record my feelings in my composition book or my journal. Eventually, I work up the courage to share these thoughts with the same world I have been observing. I do so, not in an effort to garner attention and admiration, rather I share, because I know I am not alone. I am one of billions trying to make his way. If my story can help just one person, then it was all worth it.
As I observe, I wish I was better. I have recently gone back and read things I wrote in high school or college. It has been hard for me to believe that some of those words were mine. I try not to judge too harshly though. Those feelings were an encapsulation of a time gone by. They were real. They were raw. At the time, they were powerful. Writing them made me a better person. Writing them helped me move past the pain, disappointment, and/or the loneliness. Those words were my words. Those words are still my words.
I write every day and every day I get better. Every day, I speak my truth and apply truth to power. Poetry is often my weapon, because it forces me to synthesize my thoughts. I am not allowed to wax on with compound-complex sentences that never end. My method is short, sweet, and much like a nuclear bomb, seeks to make the most impact possible. Poetry will always be my first choice when it comes to expressing myself and if you’re reading this, I hope you will give it another chance. The pen is said to be mightier than the sword and poetry may be the greatest weapon of all.
Be good to each other,