The Bard’s Initiative on Long Island had a wonderful poetry reading on this past Monday. I showed up late to the reading, ill-prepared for my own submission to the open mic (read: I didn’t have one prepared at all). The poetry reading was headlined by the current Long Island Poet Laureate, Lorraine Conlin, and Linda Trott Dickman, who also works as a school librarian. She helps run a program at her school in which elementary school children get exposed to and also learn to create their own poetry. After the feature reads, these children got to share their poetry.
What marks a child’s poetry is how positive it is. Of course, we are talking about elementary school children, before the years of teenage angst affect the developing human. But these children wrote about situations and stories that were simple but colorful, and very nice to hear. The little girl that sat next to me wrote about butterflies and the joy of flying. I told her that, even when you grow up, the best poets don’t stop writing about flying.
That is an odd thing for me to say, because most of my poetry reflects the crisis of angst and sadness that I struggle with. Like turning only to prayer in times of struggle, I write poetry only about and through the situations of struggle in my life. While that is good and important (I definitely do not downplay poetry’s ability to help work through issues), I am most certainly lacking in positive poetry, and generally lacking in readable poetry.
When I say positive poetry, I do mean poetry that has a good ending, an uplifting theme and resolves the pain it may contain. Most of my poetry I’d call “apropos” poetry — poetry that puts the reader and the writer in a state of dark wonderment at the problems and considerations of the world. However, almost all of these poems tread into the dark before they comes back around to the mildly confused. While these poems may lead me to feel wonders in my own personal life, they don’t exactly pull me out from under my troubles.
All of the open mic readers who weren’t prepared for the onset of children scrambled to revise their readings to accommodate for the younger audience. I ended up choosing a selection on bridges and their general merit over walls — a small, simple poem devoid of the tragic luster of writing about death. While I’ve enjoyed so many of the readings I have attended, this one has been one of my favorites because many of the poems shared were of that positive vein. It was unfortunate that I had so much trouble finding just one of my poems that was of a positive bent.
I’m going to try to make a renewed commitment to write positive poetry. And I don’t just mean romance (because I believe romance is easy). I shall find the spice of life more, and avoid the existential dread that marks quarter-life crises. If I don’t end up finding more joy within myself in the process, at the very least I’ll have a larger collection of crowd-pleases I could blurt out on a whim.