I was introduced to poetry by my father as a child. In lieu of music, we’d listen to spoken verse CDs. The Romantics to begin. Keats, Byron, and Shelley. Then would come the Modernists. When the first poem began, I was upset. I’d rather listen to my punk and metal bands. However, that distaste was presently overcome by awe. The structure. The metre and rhyme. Poetry had rhythm. It was music heard in the ears of a musician that was jaded by the same dog and pony shows of distorted guitars and guttural vocals. It was life changing. As if I was hearing Abbey Road for the first time again yet twice as lovely.
Typically, the Romantics first drew me in. The way they spoke spoke not to my ear but, rather, my soul.
I had always been a writer. I even fancied myself a poet but I realised that I was facing an entirely new pursuit. One that would separate the mere writer from the artist.
I read and wrote verse constantly. Often in school classes hidden behind my text books as if my moleskin notebooks were Playboys. It took me years to become fluent.
I was published at the age of fifteen and making a modest amount of money from time to time winning contests for poetry and essays. I was comfortable with my hard-earned skill set so I decided to find my next challenge.
The mark of the silver tongue; they say it’s the sign of a liar. And that I was. I weaved lies through storytelling and prose to express the truth. Prose came rather easily to me. I was a well-spoken teenager. I rarely used slang except when to not do so would be insulting to my listener’s intelligence (or at least to them, I feel it’s the other way around) or for fear of my words going unnoticed. Teenagers are too lazy to pick up a dictionary and take licence to replace perfectly fine words with more digestible, albeit unsatisfying, slang terms. Why use an invented term when a singular word is better in its place. Then it struck me. Manipulation.
O, how malleable the English language is. In the tongue of an artist, even prose works can be sculpted into a Rodin; just as beautiful and just as unconventional without anyone (with some exceptions) batting a lash. A marriage of poesy and prose. I had arrived.
The wordplay, the alliteration, every damn literary device was at my disposal. Sprinkle in a bit of metre and perhaps a rhyme or a line of carefully stressed iamb whenever I should please and, like that, just like that, I had arrived.
I met my fair share of critics and fans. Some hated my attention to description and scolded my (vaugely present) plot. Others drooled over the beautiful sound of each syllable. I strung my words like pearls and they wore them like pearls. Especially the ladies. Thank you, mother for sending me to a co-ed Catholic school! My English teacher used to say, “write like a girl’s skirt. Long enough to cover the point but short enough to keep it interesting.” Wise words but I prefer my women in gowns.
After I graduated, I would return weekly to show my old English teacher (not the possible pervert) my newest works. I asked him to take a red pen to it and help me improve. He never made a mark. Told me there was no flaw he could find. He truly gave me the courage to show my new style to others. Well, him and Nabokov. After reading Lolita, I felt unchained from proper verse and proper prose. I wasn’t sure if I was a poet anymore. I was more of a wordsmith in a love affair with the English language.
I studied dove back into my studies of all things English, spoke or writ. Some considered me an abecedarian, though no amateur. Mostly though, they called me an asshole. The way that I’m writing now is how I speak normally. Very rarely will I use colloquial slang and I’ve never in my life abbreviated the phrase, “laugh out loud.” I swear that on Keats’ grave.
If you’ve read this far, I applaud you but am also concerned. Only a madman would read a schizophrenic’s blog post about his love for language and histrionic pageantry. This man is a megalomaniac. Or insane to say the very least. Yes, I am insane. Yes, I’m full of myself and still have room for seconds. Perhaps you presume that this pretentious pontification is a petty way to preserve a persona but I assure you, this is how I truly am. (Yes, I do occasionally throw in a casual alliteration while shooting the breeze oblivious to the fact that I also added an obvious, lazy, and, what’s worse, convenient idiom and a redundant explanation of my choice of words. Don’t even get me started on run-on sentences)
Poetry, prose, language.
For bless my beard
they aye shall be
My Beloved Trinity
Women, wine, and snuff are a close second but English is my raison d’être. (Excuse the irony)
– Stephen J Dawson Jr.