The People's Poetry – A Poetic Mess
Music Credit: Rose (Prod. by Lukrembo)
Hi Pen Pals, I’m Jyn Arro and you’re listening to A Poetic Mess, the podcast where we turn the beautiful and ugly messes of our lives into poetry.
Welcome to the first episode and thank you so much for joining me. Here we write out our feelings, collect notebooks that we’re too scared to write in, and drink tall cups of coffee to try and make art out of this strange human experience that is life. I am your host Jyn Arro, a walking, talking melodrama that has way too many thoughts so I make sense of things by putting them down on paper. I am a soon-to-be self-published author. My first book is called Book of Mirrors, a collection of poetry by yours truly, and it’ll be available for purchase on Amazon on October 13th.
And since going through the arduous process of writing, illustrating and editing this book all by lonesome, it got me thinking about how inaccessible poetry still feels and is to a lot of people. So, this podcast is going to be our place to talk all things poetry and prose, dive into a new prompt or theme each episode, and have ourselves a merry little writing workshop with no pressure or expectations, just pure exploration and expression. Rules don’t matter here, perfect grammar doesn’t matter, you can write in whatever language or style your heart desires, good and bad are entirely subjective and every single one of you deserves to let your inner poet out to play and not feel as though you’re not good enough to call yourself a poet or call what you write, poetry.
Every single human being is capable of making art, whether or not everyone understands it, agrees with it, or likes it… that’s their business.
With that, let’s begin with our first mini writing workshop and turn the topic of self-doubt into a poem. While you go ahead and grab a pen and paper or just sit back and listen to soak up some inspiration, I’ll start us off by reading a poem that I wrote forever ago actually and that I recently gave new life to for my book, it’s titled Beyond Compare:
I could list all the things that I am not But better yet write of all that is my own I could see the ways I lack in compare But then I would miss what of mine is so rare
Maybe you already have your first one or two lines down, or ideas popping around in your head, but if you don’t I want you to start off by listing what you think you aren’t so good at. It can be about writing and poetry, or something completely unrelated but I want you to put into words what you think you are oh-so-bad or unskilled at. Make this part brief and short, I don’t want you dwelling too long on it, just write it as it comes to you off the top of your head.
I am small in comparison I am followed by too few I never majored in English Nor won any prize or competition I shiver at the thought of performing these words I think what if on a stage I would be cursed
I spent maybe a minute jotting these six lines down, so please know I’m serious when I tell you to write as the words come to you. Don’t get stuck worrying about perfection or technical prowess in your use of speech. If anything, we could say that such words that put us down do not deserve to be made pretty but rather to be treated with the same disdain that they make us feel when they are said to us or self-inflicted.
You can have fun and play with the language, as far as, maybe this is a poem you are writing to your younger self with old and limiting beliefs, or maybe you have personified self-doubt and are writing this poem in response to it as you would a person.
You bang down the door in my head Breaking the lock as though bread You tell me I am small in comparison That I am followed by too few in number Who am I without a major in English Or a winning prize to my name? How could I dare think of performing these words? You tell me on a stage I would surely be cursed
I pulled from the six lines I originally recited from the perspective of faults I found within myself, and I turned them into a poem that lists the near same faults except as though they are now coming from someone or something outside of myself. I’ve also used the banging down of a door and breaking of a lock to represent unwelcomed intrusive thoughts.
I haven’t done any syllable counting, or aimed to make every line rhyme. There is always time for editing later, but a better poem and one that we one day feel confident enough to call great – can only come from the initial seed that we sow, water and grow over time. Some of the poems in Book of Mirrors stayed exactly the same as I had originally written them. While others became a whole other fantastical beast entirely.
Now, the next part of our poem is going to be where we take more time to pause and ponder. Because after you’ve begun to write a piece of poetry about the area or areas you doubt yourself in, we are going to turn it into a piece that acknowledges in some way the fact that we could go on and on about how we fall short, our feelings of inferiority, or what we feel totally unequipped for. But instead this poem will now detail what of ours is so special or rare. This can be something as super simple as you being a morning person because that is a talent in my book. You can…
Rise early enough to witness the sunrise When the birds begin to rustle their wings After their slumber to fly and sing again Or the sun as it brings with them a cap Of a yellow so pure it must be gold A spectacle all those still lost in dreams Hidden beneath their covers fail to see
This is a very specific example, obviously, and also one of the countless ways you can take your poem in a direction that isn’t about being a writer. But the main point of it is to show how the simple parts of you are just as worthy of being made into a poem. And don’t be afraid to get all sappy about the parts of you you adore. Romanticize yourself and the way you live your life because when else would we do that if not when writing poetry. It is a format made for self indulgence, gaudiness, and dramatic flourishes.
Perhaps there is something more quirky or peculiar about you that nonetheless is yours to claim as something that makes you, you and no one else. And remember that you may very well have qualities or abilities that don’t seem special to you because they are a part of your normal but to others are pretty spectacular and worth longing for. I’ll give you another example, I can’t swim… okay, so I can do a backstroke and maybe not drown but that’s where my mermaid dreams come to a bitter end. A good swimmer can write verses on the ocean, lakes, rivers, its living creatures, the way it feels to be immersed in them, and more as someone who is able to freely swim in them that I simply cannot and may never be able to write because it’s not a part of my lived experience. And I view surfers, divers and strong swimmers as incredibly impressive and lucky.
So, I guarantee that there are many things about you that in the eyes of onlookers are rare and beautiful to them. Write this poem with that perspective in mind.
In a future episode, I will go over elements of poetry writing such as rhyming, syllabus count, breaking it into lines versus stanzas, and things of the sort (and please feel free to make topic or theme requests if you have any). But for now, I want you to sit with the fluidity of your writing and accept it as it is and feels most natural for you, particularly with a negative topic such as the one we are mulling over today of self-doubt.
Poetry has this amazing ability to be therapeutic in the same way that journaling can be because we are removing our thoughts from existing in a purely mental capacity that, especially if you’re an over-thinker like me, can only worsen your mood or state of mind. And through turning them into a poem we make them more tangible because now they exist as an artistic creation that we can put our signature on.
There is a journey of processing that occurs as well as this greater sense of ownership over our own thoughts. And that is really what I want poetry to be seen as by listeners of this podcast, and also as an incredible form of creativity and self-expression that everyone can access.
If part of your self-doubt ever comes from a sense of overarching elitism and preciousness that gives the illusion that something is too high class, too high art, or too good for you – tear that BS down because that is exactly what it is.
And maybe, should you choose to, the first stanza of our poem today can be written from the perspective of institutions that would deem us incapable of making meaningful contributions to this art, or of being unworthy of having our words read and heard purely because they don’t meet an archaic standard of literary rigor or finesse.
Which begs an important question for you to contemplate as you write today: how much of your self-doubt inherently comes from your own critical opinions versus your inability to achieve a certain prescribed level or marker of excellence or success that has been determined by other people?
And just to be clear, I enjoy classic literature – I do. In fact, I own two stunning leather-bound collections of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, and, my favorite poet, Robert Frost. This isn’t to insult what is considered traditionally good poetry but rather to invite and demand space for unconventional, mold-breaking, and explorative poems and the unique writers that pen them.
Back onto the main topic at hand, self-doubt, I believe, never truly goes away. There are always those nagging voices in the back of our minds, even of those that we perceive as the most confident people that surely must think they’re amazing 24/7. We don’t – I absolutely can attest to that.
The people that know me well know I have a very high opinion of myself haha, but part of that comes from knowing that the external world will do the most to criticize anything and everything that we do – that is especially true in the worlds of art and literature. So, to the best of my ability I try not to give credence to the negative “what if’s” and self-criticisms that are unconstructive and only seek to make me doubt myself.
What if they call me a fool Slap my pen from my hand Tell me to never write again I should stop now Though it might have been better If I had never been bold enough to begin For that alone maybe a fool I am But what am I here for if not to live And even if I don’t do a thing well At least I can say that I did it at all For how many can tell the tale Of when they acted a fool Maybe even tripped on their own foot But the act of having tried was worthy enough Of being deemed a success of courage nonetheless
Thank you for listening [or reading] and I cannot wait to continue to write with you, my fellow poetry lovers and pen wielders. Please share your poems with me on Twitter or Instagram using hashtag #apoeticmess. And you can stay in touch, be in the know as soon as my first book, Book of Mirrors, comes out, and read my poetry and other works @ JynArro across all social media platforms and jynarro.com.
You can support the podcast and my work at paypal.me/ByJynArro.
Till next time, this has been A Poetic Mess.