I quit writing poetry.
All of my junior high and high school years I crafted poetry. At least, I wrote things I thought of as poetry, but they are really most charitably described as nothing more than broken prose.
With all the enthusiasm and arrogance of youth, I shipped a poem off to a mentor, a real poet. And in fact, he did, most charitably, describe my poetry as not-poetry.
I learned I was not just poor at poetry, but not even poetic enough to write bad poetry. Except for Valentine’s Day for Hope–and then only briefly–I stopped subjecting the world to my emo-bleats.
I quit singing.
In my tiny Christian school, my safe-for-church tenor voice got me decent parts in the choir. In a graduating class of eight, with two boys, this was not, however, a major accomplishment.
With all the confidence of the successful, I tried out for my college singing group only to discover that, “Nobody is going to voluntarily listen to you sing a solo.”
This was put as gently as possible, but it stung because it was true.
I gave up my fantasy novel.
From the time I was in elementary school I crafted the story of BarTerra, a fantasy world of my own making. Fortunately, I was not foolish enough to send my notebooks anyplace, because one day while looking at my big pile of prose, I realized I had just produced Tolkien on his worst day. I did not have a single passage that would have made the cut in the least finished of his Unfinished Tales. Tolkien and Lewis had not baptized my imagination, they were apparently the limits to my imagination.
I would like to say that I have discovered that I am a latent poet, a great opera talent, and a hidden Anonymous author of Beowulf.
Sadly, I am still no poet, no singer, and no writer, if by those titles you mean someone of excellence.
But one day, a student and friend demanded that I write poetry again . . . not just for Hope, but for my community. A dear friend, the most talented singer I know, encouraged me to sing, just a bit. And an author encouraged me to rewrite and finish the old novel.
And so I am trying again. Why? Because perhaps poetry is too human to be left only to poets, music is too holy to be sung only be singers, and stories are too vital to be told only by writers.
I will try all these things, because it is joyful to do them, and human, and because excellence is not always the point. I do not tell Hope I love her only when I can say it well. . . .I say it often. I do not eat only when the food is gourmet, but because food is necessary to stay alive.
Maybe I can write the plain poetry, sing the simple songs, and write the imitative stories that are the warp and woof of a simple man’s life. Excellence, being really good at a thing, is wonderful, but it is not the only thing. I am learning to embrace my averageness and try anyway.
Singing? Certainly. Writing? A bit. Poetry? That is harder, but maybe I can try for some broken prose again.
Does anybody want to join me to read our bad poetry, sing our songs, and read our best, but bad fiction? See you there: Wheatstone 2012, where the amateurs dare to go.