Why I Love Poetry
I have always been intrigued and inspired by poetry.
My first encounter with tall tales, short stories and poetry was around the fifth grade at Prichard Elementary School in my home town of Grayson, Kentucky. The teacher brought in a book from Edgar Allen Poe. I was hooked. We students would take turns reading Poe’s poems aloud in class. I was chosen to read from the Tell-Tale Heart, Annabel Lee, and The Raven. Although some dreaded the exercise, I couldn’t wait my turn. I would always put really dramatic emphasis on Poe’s words as I read them. This usually resulted in some ill-concealed laughter from the back of the class but I didn’t care. I loved the gothic drama. Poe definitely fueled my interest in horror flicks that still haunts me today.
When I was in my late teens, my father gave me a well-worn book of quotations entitled The New Dictionary of Thoughts. As you can see from the inset photo, it’s a bit worn. The deep red cover is scarred and the binding has completely decayed. This book has been around the world a couple of times, in my hands. The New Dictionary of Thoughts furthered my interest in poetry, philosophy and all the big questions I still don’t have any answers to —and happy to admit it. I remember turning to one of my high school friends at work one day and profoundly exclaim, “One day I want to think big thoughts.” He didn’t even look up at me. We were shoveling shit out of a chicken coop at the time.
My wife, Carol, knew I liked Poe all too well. So one day my mother-in-law, Phyllis Dean, surprised me with a copy of Poe’s poems entitled The Poems of Edgar Allen Poe. I gave her a hug and a kiss and quickly hid the copy under my arm before she put on her reading glasses and noticed it was an 1871 edition (see photo above). It’s safely tucked away in a sealed plastic bag in my library.
A few years ago I saved up enough money from playing shows—sometimes, not a far stretch from my aforementioned employment—to take a poetry class at Harvard Extension School. I got very lucky to get to study under professor Jill McDonough. She is an excellent poet and a generous soul. Her works include Faith, Forgotten Eyes, and Habeas Corpus. Her guidance and encouragement was instrumental in the continued development of my craft.
I’ll never write as well a some of my heroes but at least now I don’t feel like my poetry is giving me the “vulture eye.”
Poetry frees the mind and guides the heart to a truth that is easier heard than spoken. I’ve spent a lot of time lately just trying to listen.
The miserable hath no other medicine but only hope. —Shakespeare