I don’t like poetry.
Strike that; I didn’t like poetry.
My tastes have evolved (or matured) and similarly to how I can now tolerate spicier kimchee, I can now appreciate poetry without zoning out, rolling my eyes, and declaring it pretentious [READ: me, insecure].
The first poetry I learned was formulaic, haikus and such, taught in grade school. The writing process for a poem felt forced and constricting and I preferred the long-winded approach. Why tell a story on one page when you could use two? Journalism school [before the internet, replete with unlimited characters] instilled in me much-needed lessons on word selection and constriction.
Deciphering poems always felt so labor intensive and often required a dictionary. I love metaphors as much as the next guy but if I have to dissect every couplet, my brain tires.
I had a cousin living in Russia who would send me poetry every year I was in elementary school for my birthday. Written using complicated Russian words outside my rudimentary Russian proficiency, I stared at my dad as stood up to read it, because this caliber of art commanded the respect of being vertical.
The first poem which convinced me I could like poetry was Charles Bukowski’s I am a Writer. It resonated with me intensely, transcended the writing genre. Bukowski was like my gateway drug to poetry; I inhaled everything he wrote, completely antithetical to every poem I read up until this point. I couldn’t say I didn’t like poetry anymore. Bukowski was the anti-pretension; he was raw, potent, gripping, and easy to digest.
My husband, the artist, has notebooks filled with poems. He used to write one a day. In our early dating days, he’d shift the romance into overdrive by whipping out the poetry books late at night as I was drifting off to sleep in his bed. He’d read through his old notebooks, or maybe they were famous Keats or Cummings poems, but I didn’t know the difference; they could have been Italian. He read them quickly, reciting to an imaginary melody or rhythm in his head. I wanted to fall in love with him even more as he professed his love through poetic verse after verse and instead, I rolled my eyes as far back as they went and fell asleep.
That is until he started writing poems about me. This caught my attention, my gaze, and my heart.