While this chapter is prosaic, the rest of the book will be poetry, lyrics, and short stories. Actually, I hate the term prosaic. All writing contains its own inherent beauty. I joke with colleagues that I have done literary analysis enough times that I could successfully analyze the back of a shampoo bottle.
I named this book years before it was finished or even really started. I was a sophomore in high school when I met a dear friend, Maegan Berry. I am sure I am misquoting her, but something she said at one point included the phrase, “ascent towards madness.” I held on to that phrase because it sounded better than the usual, “descent into madness.”
Some of these have been previously published. Where I could, I put footnotes stating the original publication venue and date, but in many cases I could only remember that I had published them but not where. This is a flaw in my own memory, to be sure, but hopefully does not present any problems—I own copyright on all work in this anthology and it is all my own original work.
On my Soundcloud account, I have an album of the same name as this book. You may seek it out and listen to it, but be forewarned that the recording quality is highly inferior to studio quality. In fact, you may come away from listening to it with the impression that I cannot carry a tune in the proverbial bucket. I assure you this would be a false assumption. I am actually quite talented in that area, as well as many other areas—a Jane of all trades and mistress of none.
As I type this introductory chapter to what I hope will be an enjoyable anthology, I cannot help but wonder what might inspire others to pick this book up off of a shelf and read it. For me, reading selections that weren’t mandatory for educational purposes were left to chance.
As a child, a favorite pastime was walking amongst the library stacks, my fingers drifting from one spine to the next, my eyes darting this way and that. Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit that I judged books by their covers? I am not.
Some tomes smelled of dust and a lack of interest; these were plucked from the shelves more readily by a young girl with a deficit of friendships and a plethora of intelligence. I craved knowledge, hungered for it, needed it to survive like food and water.
I did not want the New York Times Best Seller. I was disinclined to pick up the books embossed with the Randolph Caldecott Medal or the John Newbery Medal. Sure, these books had won awards for legitimate reasons, but what would an unpopular child want with a popular book?
I wanted the book whose library insert card showed a lack of interested readers, the book with the original copyright date well before my birthdate, the book whose author seemed obscure to my admittedly limited scope of knowledge.
Of course, unpopular books were only one of my interests. I also wanted books on specific topics, topics that may have seemed odd to the outsider who could not follow my renegade train of thought. I read up on such things as sewing circles, Great Depression cooking, bipolar disorder…my topics altered with my moods.
When libraries were beyond my reach, I browsed the bookshelves of friends and family members, but largely chose to ignore their suggestions of which books I might enjoy best or should read first. At one point, my stepdad had a book-of-the-month membership and I got to read Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy well before the movie made everyone want to pick up a copy. For about a month in eighth grade, I slipped a less potentially offensive book cover over The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and brought it to class for whenever I had silent reading time.
I read all seven Narnia Chronicles because an uncle gifted them to me for a birthday or Christmas or something. I read Stephen King’s Desperation when it was a Christmas gift from my stepdad.
I read the classics too: Romeo And Juliet, Pride And Prejudice, Three Musketeers, A Tale Of Two Cities, The Man In The Iron Mask, Moby Dick…on and on and on.
Although I read them, assigned books in school bored me prior to college—I could not relate to Judy Blume. I didn’t get much out of Babysitter’s Club, Hardy Boys, or Nancy Drew.
Still, reading was an integral part of who I was. I annoyed my family on long road trips, reading every sign along the way. My brother and I would make up stories aloud in the backseat. License plate games were more complicated than alphabet games—everything had a backstory.
To make a long story slightly less long…I am a writer because I am a reader. I am inspired by everything I read. When I cannot think of anything else to write, I read.
In that regard, poetry is no different than prose. Reading others’ poetry will either inspire or annoy. A particularly cringe-worthy poem will inspire a parody, or a reworking, or a counter-poem. A particularly beautiful poem will inspire one aspiring to equal quality.
I have taken a large number of writing courses. I have a background in various types of writing. Classrooms cannot teach craft; one must have ingrained talent or all writing will be dry and lifeless regardless of genre or inspiration. Still, taking writing courses can teach technique, which the inherently talented writer can use to spit-shine their work and the untalented writer can use to make it through required writing in college or the workplace.
It is my sincere hope that readers will pick up this book and become inspired to write their own poetry and seek out experts in the field to better their work. Barring that, perhaps readers will be inspired to write literary criticisms of the poetry I have presented here. No work is ever truly finished; I could use a humbling review.
Either way, I hope readers read. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Master and perfect one and the other will be that much easier to master and perfect.
Finally, I hope readers are not afraid to do as I have done and put their work out there for all the world to see. Indie publishing is the way I chose to go, but it does not have to be everyone’s way. The difficulties of traditional publishing and the bureaucracies thereof have pushed large numbers of aspiring writers toward the indie publishing world, though.
Saying indie publishing is not the same as traditional publishing is like saying a getting a GED is not the same as getting a high school diploma. In both examples, a person is finding a viable shortcut to a traditionally lengthy process. In both examples, the shortcut and the traditional process are equivalent in that they achieve the same goal. The book is still published whether indie or traditional; the person with a GED and the person who completes four years at a regular high school both still have a diploma. All are accomplishments. If one person takes the escalator to the top and I use a grappling hook to scale the side of building, I won’t tell the other person that their way didn’t count because it wasn’t as challenging as mine.