My penultimate semester at BYU I took a poetry class as a complete novice. Along with the curriculum and the professor, a couple of classmates awakened me to the vast and diverse world of poetry. It blew me away, intimidated me. Our class would have weekly workshops and while they did have nice things to say about my poetry, classmates were often brutally honest and mercilessly constructive. It was hard not to feel discouraged.
I read a poem every day. Occasionally I’ll write down a tentative idea for a poem. I’ve fallen out of practice; it’s easier to read than write. It hasn’t always been that way. But it’s always been easy to write crappy poetry. Here, let me whip up a gross haiku for you right now:
months of oxidizing then
flaking rust matter
See? That took less than a minute. And not something I’d be proud to show even Stephenie Meyer.
There’s so much to love about poetry: taking it apart, slathering the language all over me, listening to it, reading poets’ advice. I support people who are good at it, who devote their lives to capturing beauty, tragedy in such a specialized way.
From my experience in the class, it seems some of the best poets also make the best academics. They think about issues from multiple and often-rare angles. With intense focus, they express themselves with clarity and power. I covet them so, so much.
But I also want to brag about my poet friends and acquaintances, because they’re brilliant.
My poetry professor, Susan Elizabeth Howe:
Imagination, as I have experienced it, can be part of and lead to spiritual growth, and imagination is the natural province of the poet.
Someone I knew as a computer person before he became a poet, Neil Aitken:
Neil Aitken is a poet of consummate grace and skill. His poems are acutely observed, unerring musically, sensual and lyrical. Filled with longing and subtle epiphanies, his poetry plumbs the depths of the human heart, and hints towards the heights of the human spirit. His writing accomplishes what Wallace Stevens suggested—that, in the best poems, “description is revelation,” for each of Aitken’s poems reveals the world anew for the reader. — Maurya Simon
A friend I worked with at church in New York City, Javen Tanner:
. . . he thus takes up his poetic cross and wills us to follow as he forges a path through variations on these ambiguous realities to the end of preparing us for more lasting psychological and spiritual connections and consolations.
Former classmate and also a BYU soccer player, Conner Bassett:
When reading poetry out loud, you see the poem for what it is; half of the poem is the words, but the other half is the sound of it,” Bassett said. “Reading and hearing it out loud is a completely different experience.”
Another classmate, Kylan Rice. He seems to have a relatively new tumblr:
…Stop looking so
shocked at the grammy fat. Are we not
all a tapestry of garbled hearts?
I have a few other poet friends, but I’m having trouble finding stuff about them on the internet. Which usually doesn’t happen. You’ll just have to believe they’re also talented and incredible and very awesome.
Look these people up. During any time of crisis, these are some of the people you can listen to.