So Eden Sank To Grief

I have an odd fascination with things like sand castles and ice sculptures
I assume it’s because I usually find myself dedicating time to things that will only last a few moments
I guess that’s why I fall in love with things that will never love me back

-Ruby Francisco, My Honest Poem

I want to write about religion, but I’m not very good at that so I’m going to write about poetry instead.

I like poetry. Some of you invariably do, too. I used to write a blog of poetry. It existed here. Then I got rid of all the poetry and started this blog. People liked the poetry, but it was nowhere near as popular as this. People would tell me my writing was beautiful or that they respected my words. No one was ever inspired.

I think most people, if forced to choose between Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, and The Collected Works of John Donne would pick the first two every time (I might, too!). Unlike some, I don’t think this reflects a spiritual decline in society. I think poetry must answer for this lack of interest.

First, there is a growing amount of bad poetry. Back in John Donne’s day, it was difficult to publish poetry. There weren’t a lot of presses, and even if you were a great writer, you probably spent a couple of years just circulating your stuff around family and friends. And if you were a woman like Mary Wroth (I call her the 17th century Nicki Minaj), you spent many years circulating your stuff. Then, maybe, after you died, someone would get it in his head (usually this was a male thing) to publish your work in a folio together. Obviously, you wouldn’t start this long arduous process if you hadn’t practiced and studied your craft and knew what you were doing.

That’s not how it works today. Today, anyone can start a blog. Bad poetry gets published all the time. If you want a physical book, you can self-publish. It costs nothing to publish an e-book. Bad poetry is everywhere. The noise is loud. We turn to novels and movies and television shows because even if they are poorly written, at least they have a driving plot. Poetry usually doesn’t. It depends on its words.

Second, poetry is meant to be acutely relevant. Sure, the poets of olde wrote lofty poems inspired by women or intense epics meant to excite (although, I would argue that epics are still alive and well in the form of novels and movies). But, many of the poems from long ago that we still study today were written in response to a current event, a friend’s death, a wife’s passing or leaving.

I don’t think we know how to write relevant poetry anymore. The 24-hour news cycle is partly to blame here (although, what can’t we blame on the 24-hour news cycle). It’s difficult to take the necessary amount of time writing about an event when it’s just going to be dusted away in a couple of days anyway. Also, I think it’s difficult to write about experiences while incorporating everything that constitutes modern living. If I write a poem that simply mentions iPhones, it will either be taken as a condemnation or a celebration of them. Unfortunately, poetry desperately needs to mention iPhones to stay current. We shouldn’t start writing about iPhones. We should write about the things we’ve always written about – nature v. man, death, life, love, heartache, loneliness, war, anguish – in short, human emotion. But human emotion is greatly wrapped up in technology now and our poetry should reflect that.

Third, we don’t have time for reflection. Poetry requires space. Lots and lots of space. Poetry is not easy. It’s not something you can understand just after one reading. And I think many of us don’t understand why we should put in the time when we can read things that we can understand immediately. The truth is we don’t know how to discern. If we knew what was bad poetry and what was good poetry, if we knew that when we put the time into a poem, we would get a higher truth, I think we would be more likely to reflect. But we don’t know. So it’s our fault and poetry’s fault. We should create space for it, and poetry should honor that space.

Poetry is meant to inspire. It’s meant to illuminate something bigger and better than ourselves. That’s why we can’t lose it. Poetry is life. That’s what it means when we say a sunset is “poetic.” It means that the beauty inspires us. We can’t lose the language to say that.

I think religion is a lot like poetry.

Friday Favorite: Writing to God

Every Friday, I post a Friday Favorite. These are my most popular past posts. I share them because I like them, you like them, and perhaps you haven’t had the time to read all my past posts. Enjoy and feel free to comment!

I think I started to get semi-serious about writing right around the time that I started to get semi-serious about girls. If you’ve ever gotten semi-serious about girls, you know it’s a complicated matter. It motivates you to do things like dress better, play sports, and pretend that you have to shave. The problem with getting semi-serious about girls, though, is that you very rarely finish anything. You write a little bit, then cry a little bit, write a little bit more, talk to a girl, cry some more, write, sleep, dream about girls, pretend to shave…. and nothing ever gets done. And it’s just a hassle.

I tell you all of this because what I really want to say is that I started to get semi-serious about writing because I wanted people to like me. I thought if I wrote my moody pre-teenage feelings poetically enough on my Xanga people would say “Ooh, he’s moody and poetic” and then they would immediately associate me with other moody and poetic people like Johnny Depp and John Mayer.

Moody and Poetic Teenage Writing

Some moody and poetic teenage writing.

Over the years, writing and I have had a bit of a rocky relationship. He helped me get a girlfriend in high school. And then I didn’t talk to him for a while. But then he selflessly got me into college, and I started hanging out with him again. Then he made me into a hipster, and I couldn’t forgive him for a while. The thing is, though, that I’ve never really been fair to writing. I’ve been using him for ulterior motives even before I knew what that word meant.

One night, when writing and I were on the outs, I went on a run because I was feeling kind of alone, and when you are feeling alone and you and writing are on the outs, there isn’t much else to do but to run. And while I was running, I was kind of talking to God because God is easy to talk to when there aren’t people around and the night is dark and you are in a golf course. While I was running and being with God, I realized that writing should be a little bit like talking to God. When you talk to God, it’s kind of hard to be selfish. Being selfish with God is a bit like meeting the president and asking him why they served cold food at your school that morning. It’s just not something you do. Instead, when you are talking to God, you start to realize all of the things you care about and all the people you care about. That’s a really beautiful thing, and it dawned on me that night while running and talking to God, that writing should be beautiful in that way.

So I’m making a commitment. Writing should be like talking to God.

The title of this site is “Spencer Writes,” but it’s only that because it’s cute and catchy. What I really want it to say is “Spencer Writes About People He Loves” because there really isn’t anything else worth writing about.

I Want to Hear Your Story

Everyone has a story. I have a story. You have a story. Your ex has a story. Your best friend has a story. Your professor has a story. Your parents have stories.

It is really important that every story gets told. Stories keep us human. That’s why we cry at movies and chuckle at books. Stories keep us human.

Everyone has a different way to tell her story. Some use music. Some use writing. Some use speaking. Some use art. Some use technology.

It is really important that every story gets told. This year, figure out how to tell your story.