In my worst moments, when I’m awake and shouldn’t be, when I feel as though I am merely surviving this life, I think: what am I? I don’t know what I am but I do know a little about the habits of the creature that is me. Maybe the most important duality I inhabit is that between focusing on my mind and focusing on my heart. When I’m in my mind, I’m serious, possibly a little cranky, and doing something useful like accepting my next friend on Facebook. When I’m in my heart, I’m either writing my next new poem or practicing one of my more inspired hobbies like autoerotic asphyxiation or Reiki.
I’m an American but I ain’t stupid, I know most Americans live in their minds. The reason for this dates back to a bunch of old philosophers who thought thinking was really awesome. And it was, but ask a shaman if there’s more power in the human heart than the mind. Go ahead, ask. I’ll wait. See? Everybody knows shamans don’t lie and it would be culturally insensitive and possibly even racist to think that one would. So for the love of everything good and pure, just trust me, the heart is a better place to be. Without quoting saints or any other rhetoric devices, suffice to say, you don’t feel joy with your mind now, do you?
See, for those of you who don’t know it I’m a poet. And I see a lot of dry, contrived, sober, clever poetry published online and in print. Let me break down some types of poets for you. One kind of poet is the person (usually a guy) that constantly references ancient mythology or history without adding any nuance to the myth or story. Old and new scholars and wannabe types trying to ride the coattails of someone else’s glory. Then there is the conceptual poet. This poet is devoted to style and may not even care about content. This poet has pretty good odds of getting published these days and can probably be observed at your local Starbucks.
I don’t know how many of you are poets so I don’t know how interesting this is so I won’t go on too much longer here about the different kinds of poets, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what I call the line lover. This is a person who writes essays then breaks them down into short lines. Of course it’s a poem they might say, look, it has line breaks. Then there are the poets that use words that only a tiny percentage of the population knows or cares about. They think a poem should be a puzzle, a little nightclub of exclusivity to boost up the old ego.
Poetry has many different uses and however anyone wants to use poetry is their business, but once you’re out in the world of the published you’re influencing poetry and as someone who has devoted my life to the craft, the actual craft of poetry, I’m insulted at what some people call poetry. It makes sense though. As with art, poetry is in this magical category of stuff that a whole bunch of people agree is really deep, the very study of depth itself to some people, and so, such claims are going to attract all kinds of people who simply want to think of themselves as deep.
As for the heart, emotions, and poetry, I call out to any and all poets reading this to remember and honor the reservoir of all reservoirs of creativity, that messy beating thing in your chest. There are certainly sappy, incomplete poets who go too far in the other direction and write sloppy, emotional poems that do nothing for the reader. A poet has to open his/her heart, linger in that uncomfortable, vulnerable space where poetry can happen and get a little lucky. Every venture into that zone, every word I write, is not sacred. Personally, I now publish only the very best fruits of these experiments, the distillations of my occasional successes.
My goal in writing this essay is to push all the publishing poets of the world to use their hearts a little more and their heads a little less. Poetry needs what society needs right now: genuine, powerful, well chosen words and not self-ironic, obscure, linguistic pyrotechnics. Fluff. My genuine apologies if this happens to offend anyone but I feel strongly about the craft of poetry and its future. Poetry’s everything to me, my baby, my woman, my spirit, so when you treat her badly, I feel badly. Again, emotions, but I promise it’s all worth the effort. Living in your head is just too damned easy. And in reference to what emotional, heartfelt, well crafted poetry is in my definition, yes, I know that’s subjective so please nobody write “it’s all subjective” in your comments. I know that. I’m just a poet expressing his views on poetry.