Fear, Courage and Poetry

By Tom Owens of Tom Owens, Writer

As a university student, I limped through poetry class.

The professor gave many assignments with roomy parameters. Often, I felt sure of what she wanted.

That’s not quite it,” was a frequent response from my teacher.

On the last day of class, I pleased her for the first time.  We were invited to bring a favorite poem to recite (I chose some bawdy E.E. Cummings) and a preferred snack.

I chose two tubs of French onion sour cream chip dip.

Who brought the dip?” our instructor queried.

Other students shuddered. I confessed.

That’s my favorite!” said the professor.

She estimated our final letter grades the last week of class. The combination of Cummings and chip dip raised me from a C to a B.

The moral? Be yourself.

A “few” years later, I relive those days as I envy contemporary poets.

I would love to do what they do…

But there were a few problems: I had only ever taken one poetry class.  I had no critiques, writing group or editor.  Garrison Keillor from The Writer’s Almanac hadn’t called. I had no guarantee my words would be read to a nation of poetry buffs…

As I thought up every excuse in the book, I came to a realization: it’s time to stop waiting for someone to affix the “HELLO, My Name is Poet” sticker to my shirt pocket.

What if there were no restrictions, no rules?

What if I knew the poems would be published, no matter what?

I wrote and re-wrote through the summer. My goal was simple: Have fun while being myself.

The result is 101 PO’ed Poems: Frustrations in Free Verse. The most poetic thing I did was continue my byline tradition of “by Thomas S. Owens.” Not to seem more scholarly, but to keep me sorted out from all the other “Tom Owens” namesakes (we’re one step removed from the John Doe rabble of writers).

I chose Amazon Kindle for further shock value. Yes, I have a poem answering the traditionalists who groan about my lack of paperback chapbook. To poke even more fun at daily life, I decided to launch my e-book debut at 99 cents. “Less than a penny a poem!” I bragged.

Courage to write comes simply: Show conformity the door. [click to tweet]

As for the fear of failure?

Have fun. Be happy. Nothing insults those guardians of doubt more.  When in doubt, write the first copy for yourself.

And so I did.

And now I’m a poet.

Now I pass the baton to you.  What will you do with it?

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Tom OwensTom Owens blogs at TomOwensWriter.wordpress.com.  He’s the author of more than 50 published books, including his latest Kindle e-book debut of 101 PO’ed Poems: Frustration in Free Verse.