Part One: Two Poets
I once wrote for myself. My prose was quiet and closeted at best. In honesty, my writing was arrogant and cumbersome. I took my thoughts and forced them into words; my first drafts were belabored pieces of shit, but I liked them. It felt good. And at the time, that was all that mattered. I called myself a writer, but only because I wrote when nobody was looking. The thought of sharing my work petrified my soul. I would’ve rather posed as one of those full-frontal nudes for a beginner’s portrait class than to share my nonsensical ramblings.
But then I got over it. I realized that my proclivity towards reclusive writing was worse than useless. My fear was bullshit. I tried, and then tried harder to come up with something that a stranger might enjoy. I started writing short stories, leaning heavily on crutches made from artifice, and then I shared my work. Friends and family read it first, and then I went so far as to contact agents and publishers. I wasn’t taken seriously. The amount of praise that came from my friends could be graphed as a direct function of their sobriety. My family said that they loved everything, but these were the same people that put my finger paintings on the refrigerator. The agents and publishers ignored me via blanket rejection letters. So I tried harder, and I hired an editor.
Her name was Catherine, and I’m still writing because of her help. Actually, “help” isn’t really the word for it; maybe “tutelage” or “mentorship” or “patient ability to mold my idiocy into something legible” would be more fitting. Either way, I started to grow. The blanket rejection letters turned into personalized critiques from some of the best publications out there, and then finally, I got my first acceptance letter. It came from Tales of the Talisman a few years back, and I still have it locked in my safe. Hell, sometimes I take it out and cling to it as if it’s a lifesaver that’s keeping me afloat amongst the flotsam of all my failures.
I remember the day that my “contributor’s copy” of Tales of the Talisman arrived. I opened it, breathing in that pulpy smell of a new magazine, and then thumbed through it looking for my story. “Holy shit,” I thought as I found it, “they even commissioned a piece of artwork to go along with my writing!” It was a crude drawing, but I was honored. I received a ten dollar check with my first copy, but I felt like a gazillionaire because somebody paid me to write.
Since then, I’ve been published in other magazines and newspapers. I’ve put out a couple books. I’ve been paid for my work. I’ve been asked for critiques by authors who get paid real money to write. I’ve been on the back of books that one can buy in actual book stores. I might not be a “serious writer” yet, but I’m taken seriously by people who are, and it feels incredible. I love this art and I want it to be the foundation upon which I base my professional identity. Realistically, I’d say that I’m five years away from being a professional writer, and none of this would’ve happened without that first realization that my fear was bullshit. I took something that I wrote, I clicked “print,” and I handed it to a stranger. It was difficult, but it bore fruit.
I took my work to social media, because it seemed like the obvious step. I started a blog, and I logged on to Twitter even though I once said that I’d never do either; I’m now addicted to both. The “narrative nonfiction” I post on my blog is earning more accolades than any of my fiction. I have over four hundred diehard followers across the globe that religiously read everything I post, and I literally love them all.
However, Twitter was the impetus behind the post you’re reading right now. I’m not exactly sure how I did it, but I have close to fifty-thousand followers, and it’s taken me less than two years to get there. I always have my wife proof read these blogs before I post them, and I know for a fact that she’s slowly shaking her head as she’s reading this. It’s altogether possible that I’m addicted to Twitter, and she thinks I’m a bit childish about the whole thing (but only because I stare at my smart phone for hours at a time like an idiot). Anyway, a huge portion of my followers are fledgling writers, many of which have only been writing for themselves as I once did, so I decided to do something about it. I sent out a tweet asking newbie writers who’ve never been published to contact me. I offered my blog as that first place where they could share their work.
The response has been deafening. I had at least fifty writers try to take me up on my offer in the first hour after my tweet; I’m going to do my best to give a few of them the chance to put their work out there so they too can label their fear as bullshit. And I felt that fear in most of them; they’d preface their work with qualms like “this isn’t that good” or “I’ll send you something else if this sucks” but I’m not choosing what makes the cut. I’m going to pick ten authors at random, so long as I get an even mix of male and female, young and old, and then I’m going to publish the first work they submit. Most of these authors don’t have websites or blogs or any publication credits to their name, but that’s what I want. I want to foster their resolve; I want push them off the diving board.
These first two writers are poets. The first, Jordan, loves to write, and most often, she writes about love. Writing is important to her. Her first piece helped her through a time when her mother had breast cancer, which is something I went through as well, and her second piece is about love and pain, which we’ve all been through. The second writer, Michael, has a free flowing style that’s almost “stream of conscious;” he might be a beatnik. If you’re on Twitter, please follow both of these poets. And if you’d like to contact either writer directly, their emails are posted below.
Jordan N. Sullivan
Got my back against the wind,
as I walk I break and mend.
Learning the biggest lesson-without a miracle,
it would certainly end.
“Never give up,”
that’s what momma said, teary eyed fighting in a hospital bed.
At times she was weaker,
blankets covering her bare head.
So I made a deal
to keep her with me.
I prayed really hard
and let live or let be.
Somehow my prayer,
out of all that there are,
was heard from afar.
She taught me a lesson
not many can teach.
Handled my soul and places I couldn’t reach.
Her body was broken, but spirit un-breached.
A single tear softly fell.
Down the glowing cheek
And she felt broken.
have I ever seen her so alive,
Stripped down to her raw core.
He had broken the shell she used
As a protective wall crumbled,
She will find love again.
And this time she knows more.
This is where
her story actually began.
I’m a casualty to lust, inflicted with this flesh, the burning embers I’m feeling will fade out like the rest. And another prince will arrive gallantly at the moat, wishing he thought more wisely, instead of a white horse, had brought a boat.
Smoke filled space lacking grace, and voices rise to give orders to another trace. Alcohol hollowed races in my veins to displace another thought. This is my howl to the night life; this is my ode to the faded and jaded left fight, thirty-something’s sipping poison knowing their right. Searching for ambition and position in another lack luster sex spree, some men give it away for free, but me? But me? I want the divine everlasting sweetest spirit, slow dancing in the pivotal inspiration twenty-four karat soul. Crushing on shirtless bartenders won’t get you tender unless you spend your life savings on an induced fender bender. Silver is the tongue, golden in his smile while the tips last awhile, he forgets your name. The song plays cycle in circles this tired malaise, bearing witness to the sexual revolution out of ATM ashes seeking a resolution.