I Am Not a Poet: An Essay


I never really thought of myself as a poetry kind of person until I found myself in my bathtub with a stack of Dickinson and Frost, with hundreds of used tissues scattered about like trashed snowflakes, whispering their last words to their unused loved ones, wishing them well and giving them advice with their last breaths. I didn’t think I’d get into poetry until I woke up, spiritually, at my kitchen table, highlighting a line from a Ginsburg poem that had struck me in a way I’d never been struck before. I always considered myself a writer, ever since I was little. But poetry seemed something inherently other, something too wonderful to be touched by my filthy amateurism. I wrote a poem for my dad for his birthday, and it all went downhill from there. I was never the same. I bought more books, I subscribed to poetry channels on YouTube, I watched slam poetry and followed competitions and devoured magazines and ravaged online poetry readings. But, most surprisingly, I wrote more poetry than prose, influenced by Frost and Dickinson and Donne, my first loves. Donne’s poetry changed my life. Sarah Williams rendered me wholly different. Dickinson and Frost unveiled a beauty about the world that I could never have seen without them. They became my friends, the poets, as I memorized their poetry and recited it to myself when I was alone, as I set their poems to music and sang as loudly as I wanted when I was home by myself. But I never thought of myself as a poet, even when I was writing poetry. I wasn’t allowed to be a poet, in my head. Poets were rare, beautiful creatures, only seen on the margins of life, only in the peripheral vision, because beautiful and rare things aren’t meant to be seen every day. So I never thought of myself as a poet; I was too flawed.

That’s all from The Leatherbound.

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