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Finding a Place for Poetry

By Preston Waddoups

Like practically everyone else at Sink Hollow, I enjoy writing. I started writing poetry in high school, but it took me several years to write anything that felt sincere or remotely original. I wrote page after page of bad pastiche of poets I idolized, and I never got any better so long as I sat at my desk and tried to think of appropriately poetic subjects to versify. I eventually realized that something about my writing process and environment might have been hindering me, so I started taking notebooks on hikes and camping trips. This also didn’t help. Beautiful landscapes only put the idea in my head that I should write like some Romantic who had been dead for 200 years and then was revived in the Cottonwoods.

It was only when I started thinking about writing in the places my routines took me that I started developing my own voice and writing poems I was proud of. I found that I was most creative while driving (I can’t literally write while driving, but I often hold onto a thought or phrase until I get where I’m going or have the opportunity to pull over). This was strange to me at first, as anyone who knows me well will tell you I hate driving. It’s expensive, boring, and dangerous in the least invigorating way possible. And in Sardine Canyon, where I drive several times a month, there’s always so much roadkill. But to balance all these negative things, I can always listen to music and see the mountains (at least if I don’t drive too far from home). Something about experiencing the beautiful or serene in such uncomfortable proximity to the banal or pathetic makes me want to write poetry more than straightforward affairs like sunsets or sadness ever do. It puts the weight on me to work through the contradiction.

What works for one writer often doesn’t work for another, but if you’re having trouble getting inspired, try looking somewhere or writing about something you’ve never considered poetic before, even if it involves discomfort—it helped me a lot!

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