What really got me into poetry in a meaningful way was as a tool of self-expression. I love to paint, too, but it’s very difficult to express or explore certain ideas in painting. You can capture emotions, symbols, poses, but it’s very difficult to explore ideas any further without an explanation. I got into poetry because it’s a lot easier to describe very lofty, abstract ideas and build on them, explore them in a very compact way. In high school we had a great English teacher who led a poetry unit, and I remember that was my real introduction to poetry beyond just half-scribbles. He introduced us to a lot of older poets like William Blake, and that set my expectation from the beginning. Because of that my idea of poetry going in was that it should be a silent music- I remember disliking very blunt poems because they didn’t have the musical quality I assumed they should have to be “good.” But I learned better soon, and as we read more and more varied work in that class I dropped that pretension. What changed is that I realized that the content is so much more important than the sonic quality, that the symbolism, the art of the words makes poetry more than rhyming alone. Back then I also had no idea that poetry could be cathartic, a tool to process events, and that aspect really let me get into writing. The fact that you could write about your own experiences, not just distant, impersonal truths let me drop the artificial rules I’d fabricated for my own work.
One moment I almost stopped writing poems was after my high school teacher tried to have us read the Odyssey, back when I still thought all poems had to be musically lyrical. It was presented to us as the classic of classics, the metric by which all work was judged, but it was so dense and cryptic I couldn’t read it. I almost gave up then, before we branched off into contemporary work.