I Am Not A Poet

By: Blake Murdock

I can practically hear a certain professor reading this title now. Don’t worry, I know that the fact I write poetry, by definition, makes me a poet. Something about it for me just runs a little deeper than that, and thus, here I am, a non-poet who loves to write poems.

Since I’ve become a college student here at Western, I have found a way to make poetry work with and for me in a way I couldn’t grasp in high school. Maybe it was the sonnets, iambic pentameter, or being forced to read Beowulf, but poetry was the bane of my English-loving existence. I liked research papers more than Shakespeare, and I hated research papers. I remember having to write a concrete poem in elementary school and analyze the work of Marlowe my senior year, but it all felt forced and obligatory. I still think that if they weren’t required to do so, none of my teachers would have taught poetry at all. Thankfully, now I realize what a damn shame indeed that would have been.

All of this is to say that something, someone, changed my mind when I began here last semester. My previous teachers taught me a fraction of what poetry could be, they did the equivalent of introducing me to the world by taking me to a smog filled city and saying, “Here’s Earth. People love Earth,” before grading me on my ability to discern why the city had been laid out the way it had. The instructors of my past taught me poetry. Barbara Lawhorn reached into my soul, pulled out all the words I had hidden within it, and told me that poetry is me and I’m doing the world a disservice by not proving it.

I fancied myself dark and scary, once. Not after Lawhorn, though, no. She started by asking us to find any poem, any poem at all, that really spoke to us. Somehow, that was the first time it ever occurred to me that I could have some sort of say in what type of poetry I learned about and consumed. And so, I found myself a poem. Something that didn’t rhyme, something overtly gay in a way that was too loud to be ignored, something full of love and not of stupid similes. It was freeing, in a way.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but finding that poem led to me becoming someone I never really thought I could be. Before, I thought I was unapproachable and imposing, someone that people would fear and be right to. Now, I pity those who haven’t discovered how to gasp for air in lines and stanzas or immerse themselves to tears in their own poetry. I’ve created a playlist exclusively to make me sob so I can write poetry like I’m trying to bare myself to the world inch by inch, finding a new corner of my heart to dig through with every untitled document created.

Still, I’m not a poet, my poetry class has proven that much to me. I rhyme too little, too much, my slant rhymes aren’t slanted enough, my poems are too concrete, they’re too abstract, they’re confusing, or they leave no room for interpretation. I do not understand meter, nor do I understand how a poem can be incorrect.

The entire experience has made me want to start some anonymous social media page to post my work on. Let my poetry be consumed as words on a page, paint filling a canvas, rain hitting a window in a satisfying rhythm, not as the ideas or experiences of someone who is real. Let me fade away while my poems remain, containing all of me but not my signature. Let my poems be experienced in a dim room where the reader is forced to confront them alone. Allow my poems to resist change by not having an author to change them.

That, I think, is how I and my poetry should be seen and experienced: as a non-poet and their poetry.