Jeremy Brooks explores the cathartic nature of writing poetry from a young age.
The first poems I remember writing were for the third grade winter assembly. These works of art were notably titled “Snowflake” and “Snowman.”
Screeching wildly as it glides through the wind; Cold, crisp, crystalized as it turns around the bend.
And, thus, my love for alliteration began. The best part about writing those poems had to be the accompanying drawings of a malfunctioning snowman and a less-than-perfect glob of ice, which I scrawled on huge poster paper and gleefully held up to unsuspecting parents. Unfortunately, the whole segment was documented by my snarky siblings and proud papa in our treasure trove of home videos that may be the sole reason I never get married.
Alliteration aside, my admiration for the art form continued into high school, where I participated in the national competition “Poetry Out Loud” and placed in the state finals for California. The competition required students to memorize three poems by both classic and contemporary poets and recite them to an audience. My favorite was “The Gift,” about a man reconciling both the violent and tender aspects of his father. My dad was a Baptist preacher, so I knew the balancing act a boy plays when walking the thin line between a father’s approval and strict discipline. Maybe it was my voice finally deepening or that I loved being the center of attention, but regardless of the motivator, I learned that I loved the performance aspect of poetry. Therefore, I did what any boy who had this realization would do four years later: told a girl I loved her for the first time by reading her a poem.
She was patient yet restless, sitting there and wanting desperately for me to get to the point. I stumbled through the lines while nervously moving through her bedroom with my gaze, pausing on the tapestry and mood lighting hung above our little sanctuary. I finally sputtered out the words on the stained-wood floor, hoping they would not leave a silent echo. The applause of hundreds of people does not hold a candle to having the person you love most in this world smile back at you.
After feeling the rush of that moment, poetry grew into a way for me to articulate what was going on inside myself. For a while, my poems were a cliché collection on the joys of life, but those soon turned into a cry for help. My relationship with my proud papa began to fall apart during college as I continued to stray from my conservative, Christian roots. This was epitomized by my father immediately leaving the Thanksgiving table after I admitted I no longer believed in God.
My new lifestyle put a strain on our whole family, and I started to wonder if I still had a place in it. To cope, I wrote about what it felt like to lose the foundational beliefs that helped shape my life as I began to discover my own reasons to live. Putting my worries down on paper helped me decipher my own insecurities and allowed my family to see how much our relationships meant to me. I credit my poem “The Talk,” which compares the similar experiences of my father and me as young men, for allowing us to speak again.
Writing poetry transformed the anxious thoughts that riddled my mind by claiming ownership over them. As a young boy, I never would have guessed that writing about inanimate winter objects for a class project would completely change my life. Now I use poetry as a tool not only to take control of what is happening to me but to connect with other people. I’m still not quite sure what I believe, but I do know the value of expressing myself in an authentic way through writing.
Today I chose to lose the anxiety-ridden shackles on my mind
Celebrate the fact that I have made it to where I am now
And I can stretch out my hand
And touch a thousand souls
I question their existence but can’t deny their being
In every human I encounter
I cannot begin to convey how grateful I am for the gift of poetry.