Saturday, June 07, 2014

Advice to a young poet

I've been involved with the local poetry scene for about two years now, and all that while I've been making some observations, especially of the young poets just doing their first readings. Now, as someone who has possibly been involved in poetry for less time than some of these young poets, it seems preposterous that I should be offering advice. But I have watched some other people providing advice to some of these kids, and some of it seems awful. (The worst seems to be "Say 'fuck' more. Every third line at least. It will make your poetry hip, edgy, and confrontational.") So I thought maybe I would string together my thoughts in one place. But this is very much a work on progress.

The first line has become my personal motto. It also describes what I've been doing for the last two years.

Crash the party. Dance with the prettiest girl in the room. Act like you belong.

You have a voice. Use it.

You have many voices. Find them. Use them, too.

Be brave. Be strong. Be unapologetic. Make damned sure you're heard.

Be unafraid to show vulnerability.

Filling your poem with "Fuck" doesn't make you sound cool. At all.

Be just a poet and you will be broke. (Unless you're writing poems by cats, then you'll be a bestselling author.) There's no shame in being something else AND a poet. Becoming a welder doesn't mean you've given up your dreams. Being a welder who is also a poet is incredibly awesome. Being a poet who is also a welder will strike fear into the hearts of your fellow poets.

Poetry is a lot of things. It has a history. Being your own person doesn't mean you have to reject everything that has come before. There are many styles. Study them. Reject the ones you don't like, embrace the ones you do. Create your own.

It's not all about you. But sometimes it is.

Lots of people will give you advice. Some of it is good. Most of it is crap. The trick is to learn how to discern one from the other.