I’d forgotten how fun and challenging it was to write poetry. How’d I manage to let myself get away from it? That which had been my dream to pursue in fourth and fifth grade has long been buried — tucked away in a little corner of my brain that is rarely revisited. How could I have forgotten the fun I’d had crafting, “If I were a cat for a day”? With an AABB rhyme scheme, the poem wasn’t exactly pure genius, but the thing was genuinely enjoyable to put it together.
Poetry always tickled the creative part of my brain. There’s something about the confining quality of a poem that’s somehow liberating. I’ve always struggled with writing about worlds of make-believe, with made-up characters and scenarios. (I only recently even started enjoying the fantastical world of sci-fi. Check out this Dr. Who post for more on that.) With poetry though, you don’t need characters, or even a plot. Emotion through words is the driving force. Stringing together lovely imagery through lyrical phrasing was pure music to my brain. Using rhythm and rhymes gave poetry a structure, a reason, a beat. That gave it a purpose and grounded it. Writing become an intellectual challenge, like playing the piano or learning a language.
I hadn’t thought about it until just now, but my gravitation toward rap in my high school and college years is starting to make a whole lot of sense. I moved away from the hokie perfect rhymes of my youth and gravitated towards something much more teenager-like. In the magical era of free music downloads from Kazaa and Napster, I loved driving my dad’s foxy boxy Volvo around to reggae, rap and R&B. Lauryn Hill was one of my very favorites. She was so soulful and honest and wow, was she talented. Little did the young me know that in just a few short years, I’d be capping off my college experience with a detailed analysis of Lauryn Hill’s former group, the Fugees. I actually dug up m y senior thesis, for your viewing pleasure— keep in mind that I was young and hadn’t reaped the benefits from my English lit. grad work just yet, or even come close. I think I got the most literal A for effort known to man with my project, because my professor know I’d invested my heart and soul into trying to unravel the threads of this random hip-hop album from 10 years earlier. Oddly enough, just a few years out of college, I’d start teaching in East Harlem with a former Fugees groupie, turned gym teacher.
I guess you could say I left my fascination with rap and hip-hop culture in Harlem. When I moved back home, I shed that identity. It wasn’t intentional — I just turned my academic-turned-professional focus towards my new career in the non-profit communications world. A friend had been telling me for awhile about Dead Emcee Scrolls by Saul Williams — a book I’d been dying to borrow with poetry and some incredible excerpts the author found intricately written out on scrolls, stuffed in a paint can and hidden deep in the burrows of a NYC subway line. I took great joy in reading the poetry out loud, to myself. Future Husband was doing a comedy gig, so I didn’t have to be afraid of how silly the slang and slurs sounded tumbling out of some blonde chick’s mouth. It was fun to embrace the rhythm — a part I’d not paid enough attention to before, which is really the driving force of the art form.
As I make my way down Wedding Land Lane, it’s fun to rediscover lost selves. I’d been so focused on growing and moving forward that I’d forgotten sometimes, it’s just as important to re-acquaint oneself with oneself than trying to create a new me, from scratch. I’m at a point now where I do have a former me — several, in fact — to salvage and repurpose. Ah, to be 28 — isn’t it great? :)