“I don’t know. Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.”–J.D. Salinger
I started to write poetry when I was 6-years-old. Back then, I thought it was a requirement to that poetry had to rhyme. And so I wrote about staring contests I had with lizards crawling up the marble blocks of my bath tub or about a blonde haired princess, who refused to take off her glittery tutu when it was time to go to bed.
When I grew up, I was surprised to learn that poetry has no rules. You can do what you want, if you please. Break lines in the same harsh, cruel way your heart was once broken. Throw out any and all punctuation because your thoughts are just one jumbled, chaotically gorgeous run on sentence disastrous mess. It doesn’t matter, my friends, unless you agree to tell a story with every ounce of courage that you have.
Today Is National Carry a Poem in your Pocket Day. Whether you’ll carry a scribble of words that make you melt around with you in your pants or you’ll take the time to read some poetry, I hope that you’ll understand the beauty of expression when there’s nothing holding you back.
Here are a few of my favorites:
I Go Back to May 1937 (Sharon Olds)
Five Poems (E.E. Cummings)
(of solongs and, ashes) .
On Turning Ten (Billy Collins)
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something, something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.
You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.
But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.
This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers. It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.
It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.