I wrote my first poem on September 12, 2001; I was eleven years old. It rhymed. It probably sucked. It was remarkably hopeful.
Since then, my poetic life has worn many shades. It’s hard to remember what drove that first impulse over 16 years ago (aside from the obvious national crisis or an early summer spent memorizing chunks of Leaves of Grass), but for most of my adolescence, I was hooked. Pages-long, overwrought poems poured out of me, often directly to people I loved. Some liked them; others nodded politely; others stopped talking to me.
I couldn’t help it; I just kept writing.
In college, I played with forms and fell in love with “Dover Beach.” At some point, as adulthood emerged, I became afraid of poetry. The more I read, the harder it was to feel like there was anything new to say. Lit mag rejections sapped my energy. The more people I met whose hearts bulged less than mine, the harder it was to keep mine out in the open. In grad school, I tried to fix it by throwing off tradition and tossing poetry all over the page like Charles Olson (my manifestation of all things good) and his kindreds. It was a hell of a lot of fun.
But when my grandmother—the first poet in our family—died, I stopped. For a long time, it was emotionally impossible for me to get words on the page. All I wanted to do was read Beloved on an endless grief loop, and who wants to write anything themselves when they can just read Toni Morrison? Ma was the one who always asked, “Have you decided what kind of writer you’d like to be?” It took me two more years to come up with an answer.
About a year ago, largely out of desperation, I found myself sketching on postcards. The sketches turned into words that turned into poems. They felt like home. I found a small orbit of postal poems on the internet, but few seemed to be doing it quite the way I imagined. The closest was the August Poetry Postcard Fest (which I joined last year), but even that only lasted a month. I began to envision a more sustained (and sustaining) community. In the process, I stumbled my way into P.S. Poems.
Ma (I love you), this is the kind of writer I want to be: someone who makes you (all of you) feel heard. I want to write poems that make you stop and think, for a single, life-pulsing moment, “You were listening. You know what it’s like to be me.” Thousands of writers are out there doing wonderful things, creating worlds that make us feel less alone. I just want to take that down to what seems like the most personal scale possible in an increasingly virtual world: I want to send you a poem in the mail.
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