John Dorsey: Renewing your poetic licenseWritten by John Dorsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have a burning passion for all things poetic? Do your friends roll their eyes at the mere mention of modern poetry? Well, they’re not alone, but the good news is — neither are you.
I would much rather pine over the words of hopeless romantics than sit on pins and needles waiting for the score of the big game or the latest Hollywood gossip. When I agreed to write this column the one thing I knew is that it had to be more than just another regional arts calendar; those are just words. What I’m most interested in is your passion.
Poetry is happening right now. I could take things a step further and say that somewhere in our fair city someone is holding a reading as I type this and I would probably be right.
In future columns I plan to tackle issues like publishing, community unity, how to go about making a living as a modern American poet and how to make sonnets as exciting as your favorite cover band down the street. I’ll also highlight readings and events and put the spotlight on members of our local literary community. This time around though, I’d like us to get to know each other a bit.
Can you remember how your love affair with words even got started? Was it a line from a particular literary lion? Was it the kind words of an encouraging friend or teacher? I realize that just opening up to another person can be scarier than the latest horror flick or celebrity mugshot, so I’ll get the ball rolling.
I’m 12 years old and I’m sitting on the floor of my Aunt Debbie’s dusty attic in Pittsburgh and I am surrounded by a fortress of books — cookbooks, self-help books, big fat tomes on ethics, Eastern philosophy, art history, and most importantly as it turned out, books of poetry. I started thumbing through a yellowed anthology looking for nothing and finding everything. It was in that sitting that I first came across the poem that changed everything for me, Hart Crane’s short but sweet “Black Tambourine.” I can’t remember right now what is was about that piece that made me break down in tears, but I will say that it wasn’t sadness. My father was a military man and I was always taught that poetry was something women wrote, maybe a few fragile men, an outlet for the weak, and until that moment I believed it. What I’ve learned since is that the power to truly open up and write poetry takes great strength. You may not know it, but you’re my superhero.
Now, it’s your turn. What’s your story? You don’t have to say it out loud, but I want you to think about that first moment of power or true joy you felt due to the written word and then get in your car or on your bicycle or just start walking as fast as you can toward a reading, your public library or your local bookstore. Remember, words are a weapon and a gift. Can’t think of anything to read? Here’s my current list.
- “Up is up, but so is down,” New York’s Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992. Edited by Brandon Stosuy. New York University Press.
- “The Broken and The Damned” by Jason Hardung, Epic Rites Press.
- “Single Out” by Ruth Weiss, D’Aurora Press.
- “The Step” by Ron Loewinsohn, Black Sparrow.
- “Zero Star Hotel” by Anselm Berrigan, Edge.
Until next time … keep your pencil sharp.
John Dorsey resides in Toledo’s Old West End. His work is widely published and has been nominated several times for the yearly Pushcart Prize.