Thought Catalog
April 21, 2017

Trying To Write Poetry In The Age Of Trump: A Manifesto For The Stubborn Optimist

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What is the issue?
Unsplash/ Evan Clark

My life in one simple image: instead of scraping off the frost on my windows, how about I just drive with all the windows down? Melt, poetry.

For years, I’ve been singing the body electric & now I’m hoarse, short circuited, searching for the wrong words in all the right silences.

Hey Trump, inside my body are millions of crushed American Spirits, overpriced things I never had the chance to smoke and experience.

I put work boots on my hands & high five old white men in suits, so they feel blue collar pain.

Amount of work I put in to deciding what poems I’m gonna do for a five-minute set is unreal. I question my commitment to everything else.

More poetry events should end in obituaries.

Undeveloped anger will not suffice anymore. For poetry to be a weapon, it must be uncomfortable, it must have a passport to dark places.

I’ve been rockin’ the same suit for the last two days. I should probably go home. Thankfully, I keep extra ties in the car and nobody knows.

Damnit! We really need to be better astronomers of self-destruction, learn that our patterns glow fierce like constellations. Be better, see.

Hey Justin, you know what’s a good idea? Writing/performing a long poem about your worst qualities. Who would’ve ever guessed it’d start to affect your psyche? It’s okay though, just keep digging until you reach the China of realization.

When you perform a poem, the goal is to rattle the world. Don’t let the poem be rattled by what’s going on around you. Poetry is unshakable.

Ten minutes in of watching Finding Dory with Carly & there’s already a Babel of tissues next to her. Language of tears, am I right?

It’s lovely that you can build a railroad out of lingerie and watch my locomotive lurch toward you. Silent movie villains are out tonight.

Here’s a bold idea: write more – and then keep writing, until any sort of pettiness is inked out of your bones, until any sort of toxicity dissipates like love after lust goes on a journey of self-discovery. Here’s the thing: sometimes you might feel that there are skyscrapers being erected all around you and that their lighted windows aren’t meant for your eyes, but you gotta write your way into that shine until you’re blind.

More poetry should be like the movie Moonlight: tender & precise cutting open of identity that unites all of us in aliveness, a fire that cools.

The poet’s knife: it gets too dull too fast and I’m always trying to find the next one, a sharper one, so I can cut deeper until I touch bone.

Oh Justin, stop being so damn self-destructive.

Just like any good lover, poetry is killing & saving me. Must wear both masks in public. Must have a snow day of the soul. Time to shovel.

Hey Justin, stop bottling things up. It serves no greater purpose anymore. This quest to be a better man is driving you mad. Take a step back and loosen your feet from the city’s quicksand. There’s always gonna be quicksand. Learn to walk on it like Christ on water. Break those patterns. Start now. Consider this recent “storm” as the last gasp of your mania and now that the snow is melting, maybe you should too.

Feels: when a poetry reading goes according to plan, when Noah suggests a “Howl” vibe to the poem you read, when the whiskey drinks you.

Sometimes my mania pushes me to rain out my poetry. Although sunny in Buffalo, poetry makes it rain.

It’s that time again: let us stare at the water and think about our lives, how we’re ships passing in the night even tho it’s daytime. Weird.

It’s pretty freaky to think I’ve never had a fulfilling job, except for when I was an adjunct. No money in that tho. Yeah, depression.

Ah, happiness: done with work, in my totally sweet Cobalt, listening to Queen, cig dangling outta mouth. My heart is a fat bottomed girl.

Ohhh boy, here’s a poetry tip: it feels better when you’re all riled up. It’s about time I drag my iceberg out of the water and see how beautiful it really is.

Poetry is finding an odd AM station while driving in the middle of the night, songs about making out with angels at make-out point. Who am I?

Another night, another midnight walk in Buffalo and wow, how beautiful the weather is, forming a crown of hormones on my head so I can make up for lost time. The spring air jamming an equinox inhaler in my mouth and telling me to breathe again…I’m hopped up on feels. Let’s keep the momentum going and unleash our best parts on each other. Let’s live and love and protest and fight like we do in poems.

Ash! Volcanos! Magma! Oh, get out of the Pompeii of your stillness! Let the feelings of loveliness devour you and take those first steps. I’m feeling lovely tonight.

Whew, tough to keep up with all these dysfunctional nights! At least the Buffalo weather is getting better. At least there’s poetry.

Taking baby steps toward that healthy fire. Think big everybody. Time to salvage the sinking ship.

I’ve mastered the art of burning out & then phoenixing back into the Rust Belt, back into Buffalo, where everyone is a lil bit Napoleonic.

Anyone else write poetry shirtless? Is it because I’m going all barbarian with words? Too much constraints these days. Oh, let it out loves.

Time for raucous ambition, time for poetry to unshield us from mania. So many people living on this planet and it’s time to love them all.

After last night’s conversation with a teenager, it’s clear that poetry needs to always be evolving for it to impact people. Change it up.

Oh, drinking cheap wine & listening to Kendrick Lamar. This makes me happy. Creative competition. Maybe poetry needs to strut its ego more.

I take more risks in my poetry than I do in my life and I’m pretty sure that needs to change. Like now. Building an empire of excitement.

Let’s be ambitious like that giant chicken. No factory farming of my soul will bring this poet down. Friends, think big, out of the coop!

I like my writerly heart to hearts with Ben.

I’m enjoying these fireside poetry chats with Aidan and Noah. Big things brewing in Buffalo and maybe Turkey too. We shall see.

Working on a long poem about the “strange” death of Elisa Lam. Think Berryman’s “Homage to Mistress Bradstreet,” but with conspiracy & horror.

Let’s enter that land of the living again. It’s like I’ve had ashtrays for eyes. How long have I let people ash into my vision of the future?

Let’s hustle language a little bit more & open up social curtains. Let daylight in.

The road to hell is paved with good poems. The road to heaven is also probably paved with good poems. Nuance! Be clever with your shock.

Morning poetry for me is retweeting cool things from Ghost City Press. So much nifty stuff is happening. Pay attention. Be amazed by poets. TC mark

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