The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor
And the Highwayman came riding, riding, riding
The Highwayman came riding up to the old inn door.
Poetry holds a special place in my heart. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading to me from a ridiculously worn-out copy of Favorite Poems Old and New, some of which I can still recite by heart. The above is one of them: The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, but there were many others I loved. Ogden Nash, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allen Poe, and many others that most people have never heard of, these soothed me to sleep for years.
Later, when I first realized that I had words in my head that wanted out, poetry was my first outlet. I suffered from serious insecurity and social anxiety issues when I was young, and poetry was the only creative form I had that could get past all of that. The immediacy, the passion of a certain image or turn of phrase, these could carry through my doubts and get onto the page before my Inner Critic could stop them. For years I kept them to myself, scribbling them down in notebooks I kept hidden in my room, but with the encouragement of some friends I began to share them, and then to perform them at a local coffee house’s open-mic poetry night.
There, I discovered I had a talent, far more of one than I gave myself credit for. For years I thought my only worthwhile ability was in music, but now I had friends asking me to read certain pieces that they liked and strangers complimenting me, and I began to realize how ridiculous my worries had been. Words and language had always come easily to me. I couldn’t and still cannot tell you the difference between a participle and a gerund, but give me a mangled sentence or a convoluted turn of phrase and I can unravel it as easy as breathing. To me, language is very much like music: ebb and flow, balance and tension, pressure and release. It makes sense to me, and so it was only logical that I would be able to put words onto a page in a way people could enjoy. The only real question is why it took me so long to realize it.
I do not write poetry nearly as often as I did 20 years ago, when I would sit at the No Exit Cafe every Tuesday night, drink their rocket-fuel coffee and scratch out 3 or 4 poems like clockwork. My writing has gotten far longer now, more methodical, but every once in a while a turn of phrase or image will catch my ear and resonate, and I find myself diving for pen and paper to catch that fleeting snippet of inspiration that, at least to me, is at the heart of all good poems.
Rumble-pop dirt roads,
Scents of corn, dust, grass, sunshine,
Summertime road trip
This is why I will always love writing and reading poetry. That crystalline moment they capture and convey, that precision of language, that conciseness. Nothing else is like it, at least for me.