Photo by Riley Donahue featuring Asia Jackson for Mad Sounds Magazine Issue 21
If you’re one of the few people left who haven’t heard of La La Land, the musical details the relationship between an aspiring actress and a jazz musician with a staunch loyalty to traditionalism. As a fellow creative in the “dying field” of poetry, the film resonated with my what sometimes feels like desperate attempts to revitalize the art form.
Most peoples' impression of poetry is the surrealist, convoluted declarations of the meaning of life they read in English class. When I reference slam poetry, they don’t understand it until I shrug, “Uh...22 Jump Street?” to which they mimic, “SLAM!....poetry.” I asked my classmates whether they thought it was a failing medium, and most people said, “I mean, yeah, who really reads poetry anymore?”
One answer gave me hope though: “Well, no. It isn’t. Poetry doesn’t have the strict rhyme scheme like it used to have, but that’s what people think when they hear ‘poetry.’ It’s changing, becoming more modern. Look at Rupi Kaur, she’s making it relevant again. Look at slam poetry, that’s huge right now. So no, it’s not a dying art.”
La La Land is making jazz mainstream again, and I see the same thing happening with poetry. Not like the explosion of interest with jazz, but in small ways: slam poetry garnering success on YouTube, the popularity of Milk and Honey, social media accounts of writers. My friend Katy and I exchange work regularly and gush about how we love each other’s writing styles, and my friend Rebecca occasionally tags me in love poems on Instagram. If I don’t like how people overlook poetry, then it’s my job to shove it in their faces, to tell them, “My words matter. Please give my art a chance.”
Which brings me to this article, a plea for the starry-eyed and curious to delve deeper into poetry. I know most people find the medium tiring, but there is magic to the stories and metaphors and raw feelings. I have spent hours on a single work just to have the words flow properly. There is passion and selflessness to this craft that cannot be replicated.
I jokingly called myself “poetic prowess” to motivate myself to push for this medium, but it has transcended an endearing term: I will rewrite myself over and over again onto my courage until my metaphors sound just right. I am bold. I am magnetic. I am electric. I create universes that will wreak thunder in your chest and we will waltz to my color symbolism and I will not be sorry for any of this. I am a poetic prowess. I’m a witch who yields the magic of words.
I am a storyteller, and don’t you forget it.
Some poets to get you started on your poetic journey: inkskinned on Tumblr, Sarah Kay, @alison.malee on Instagram, and blossomfully on Tumblr.