Poetry is Radical Genuineness

I had four days alone in Teignmouth and I wanted to find love; I decided to download Bumble.

At the launch party for the poetry festival, everyone asked me, “Why are you here? Do you know someone?” but all I could say was, “No, I just love poetry.” And that was it. After the event, I walked slowly to my Airbnb alone admiring the beauty of the Devon coast and the sound of silence.

The next morning, I went to the beach and wrote. Their questioning had shaken me. What was I doing here? Was love not a good enough reason?

Teignmouth was the only poetry festival on my list. Actually that’s not true, I had popped up to StAnza Poetry Festival unofficially because I couldn’t not go to St Andrews, as it is my poetic birthplace. This year I felt odd. I kept having to quiet a voice that whispered, “You are not poet enough to be here.”

“Shut up!” I retorted, “I write poetry, I read poetry, I love poetry, I am poet enough.” And so I was.

When I say I love poetry, I’m not actually saying that I love “words written on a page that often rhyme and have short lines”. To me, poetry means genuine expression of soul expressed using language. I use the word “poetry” to condense the concept of reading, writing, listening, and speaking your thoughts and feelings, as well as those of others. I often use it as a code word to recognize a fellow sentient being. When I say, “Do you like poetry?”, I’m actually asking, “Do you appreciate genuineness? Do you value your own thoughts and feelings, are you strong enough to be vulnerable? Will you respect my thoughts and feelings?”.

Usually people say, “No, I don’t like poetry. I just don’t get it.” But that’s the point, there’s nothing to get. Poetry is not about getting, it’s about giving. Poetry accepts you, it always accepts you. People who like poetry may not accept you, people who write poetry may not accept you, but poetry will always accept you. You are always good enough for poetry. There is no objective definition of poetry. Poetry is personal. Poetry is like feminism, everyone has a different definition and no one can invalidate another.

That is why I love poetry. See, while I didn’t think I was good enough to be a writer, I knew I was good enough to be a poet. Poetry asks for nothing and gives everything.

The process of writing poetry is the validation of your own thoughts and feelings. To be specific, according to Psychologist Marsha Linehan, it is Level 2 validation. When you read your poem in front of people, and they listen – they are present with your feeling (Level 1 Validation). When they clap or snap, they are showing acceptance of your thoughts and feelings (Level 5 Validation). And afterwards, always afterwards, when people come up and say, “I’ve felt that way, too” and they share their experience, that is radical genuineness (Level 6 Validation).

Poetry is radical genuineness.

Read the next blog post in this series, “At Least You Have Poetry”

Read the first post in the series “Hi Again”.

Check out the full list of blog posts “How to Value Your Own Thoughts”