Earlier this week I took a few older poems I had and wasn’t fond of, and created a “Franken-poem” out of them. It turned into an amazing piece about a very long and personal journey. Because of the nature of the poem I wasn’t sure if I wanted to show it to anyone else or keep it to myself, and this led me to thinking about what we owe our peers, our poems, and ourselves, respectively.
It’s my belief that poems are inherently personal because a writer can’t write without infusing some of their own emotions and thoughts into their work (and feel free to disagree with me on this in the comments). I know the poems that get caught in my head are those that were written from personal experience. The reason that I want to be a writer in the first place is to be able to give someone what others’ words have given me, and therefore I felt I owed it to my community to share this poem (not that I think it is revolutionary or earth shaking, but I like to think that every poem has the potential to matter to its readers the same way it does to the writer).
Then I began thinking about what the poem itself deserved: do poems only become what their readers think of them? Can a poem mean as much if it only means so much to one person? This is all pretty silly and hypothetical considering the answer doesn’t matter–poetry would still exist even if there were no readers because sometimes words have a way of blooming out onto paper despite whether there’s an audience for them or not. But still perhaps poems deserve the opportunity to be seen by a new pair of eyes.
Lastly, I thought of what we owe to ourselves when we write poems. Assuming that all poetry is personal, is it more or less of a catharsis to write it if we are sharing our work? I suppose this is, ironically enough, a fairly personal question, considering it probably changes from person to person, but I think through writing this post I’ve helped decide the answer for myself.
Poetry – and through it, the thoughts that we simply can’t shake and decide to impose on the universe – is a part of its writer, and maybe, deep down, we like to share even the really personal poems for the same reason we like to share anything else: to know we’re not alone.