Posted by: Viola | September 20, 2015

Being a poet means fighting for your expression every single day

I believe that poems aren’t special things that only happen to poets. They happen to everyone. They exist within us all. We express them a lot of the time, without knowing it. But we express our most beautiful poems when we are able to say “No” to the voices within us and around us that censor us.

It can take a huge amount of time for a person to work up the courage to express their ideas, their thoughts, their emotions and finding the right words and the right time. It can take years, it can take a whole lifetime. And for some people, that chance to express themselves in words and art is an impossibility, for various reasons. This doesn’t change the reality that poems still exist within these people. They just aren’t things we get to see or read or enjoy.

But for those who have been offered the chance (or have seized that chance) to express themselves, we get to enjoy their words, read them over and over again, and sometimes we even get to have a whole body of work, a lifetime of words at our disposal. And we may enjoy this art and teach it and share and not once ask ourselves what made all these words come out of one person. How did he or she do this, all this writing and writing, endlessly?

I think, at the root of art, is not just a call…but a choice. A choice to work daily at countering the boundaries and realities that stifle creativity and expression. So the poet isn’t just someone with a calling, though that it important. The poet is someone willing and able to fight for that calling and for the freedom to express himself or herself.

The poet is someone who doesn’t see life as worth living if it means living in censorship and silence.

Sometimes, that censorship is self-imposed. It’s not from someone else but from within. It’s not from the system of government one lives with, though for many poets this form of censorship oppresses them daily and  they might be jailed or killed for expressing their ideas or dissent.

When censorship is self-imposed, when the poet is afraid inside herself, when the poet imagines that the world will reject or condemn her if she expresses herself, then this is perhaps the most challenging kind of censorship to tackle. It’s an imagined one; though there may have once been very real reasons to fear creative expression, those reasons no longer exist but the poet continues to believe that those punishments and consequences exist.

I suspect most poets feel this fear. A resistance, an internal one. A voice of doubt, however large or small, saying that it’s better to be silent and to not write. A voice saying it is easier to do something else, be someone else, and give up on being a poet.

So the journey of being a poet, the internal journey, looks very much like a war, a battle over whether to speak or to be silent, whether to write or not, whether to run with the words or run from them.

And a poet is, at the end of the day, the person who chooses to stay, chooses to speak, chooses to write. No matter the consequences. No matter the outcome of that expression.

The poet is the one who fights that inner battle. Even if no poems are ever published, even if the world never sees that creative expression appear on a page, the poems live when the poet lets those poems live and be.

The poet is the person who is wearing an armor that fear cannot penetrate. The poet is the one who is able to stand up in the face of fear and say “These are my words.”

If you want to be a poet, it is pretty simple. All you have to do is speak. Even if you are afraid. Especially if you are afraid. Speak. Let your voice be heard.

Let your voice be heard. Even if you are the only person listening.

How to be a poet in one easy step
By Viola Allo

This is the way to become a poet
that many poets won’t tell you about.
They’ll tell you about taking workshops and
reading books and analyzing poems and
practice, practice, practice. They’ll tell you
how to get started with publishing your poems
in this journal and that journal. But actually,
that’s not the main way to be a poet.
This is how to become a poet in one easy step:
In order to sit down and write something from the heart,
you most definitely have to get to a mental place where
you say “Fuck you!” to whatever (whoever)
is in you and around you that tries to censor or stifle you.
It’s not a loud declaration but a very quiet, invisible one.
Sit still. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply.
Just like they teach you to in yoga.
And then inside the vast quiet of your mind,
say “Fuck you and fuck the system.”
Let the words echo around that open space
inside you. Then open your eyes and watch
the poems fly out.

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