Poetry is Manly
Sitting around the table, my stomach got tight.
Sitting to my left was Jesse, a cowboy poet, if I've ever met one. A man's man with a gentle soul and calloused hands. To my right was Drew, a former Olympic level athlete, whose stature and muscles fill the room and whose heart bleeds kindness. Both men are taller than me. Both have a large presence, in a good way. Both are story-ninjas, curious with the precision of a surgeon.
Something (Holy Spirit) told me to look for it. I hadn't even thought about it in a few years, but I went and grabbed my phone. It was probably buried in my notes app.
Yep. There it was. One of the very few poems I have written over the last decade. "If I close my eyes, maybe you won't see me."
With some hesitation, I offered some context and then read it aloud. It's a poem, or maybe a spoken word, about putting on a mask in order to receive love, only to find yourself more alone and unknown than ever.
There was a silence. Chewing on the words, feeling the emotions. And then some kind questions. No rejection.
And then Jesse shared one of his most recent poems- one written last week. He is becoming famous for his liturgical poetry and prayers. And then Drew shared one he wrote not long ago, remembering his time in a place of renewal. These were special moments of quality connection. A lowering of pretenses and an opening of souls to each other, saying "Here is what my heart sings. Will you have it?"
Inspired, the next morning I intentionally wrote more. And again later that day, realizing I needed to exercise that muscle and reconnect with that space. Deep inside, we all have something to say.
For a long time, the caricature of a man has been that of toughness. A hard exterior shell that shows no weakness, no tears, no pain. Emotionally disconnected. Art was for sissies. Engagement in depth was taboo, real conversations were not safe.
And yet, that was never true. Some of the most prolific artists and poets of history are men. Shakespeare. King David. Michelangelo. Robert Frost. Beethoven and Bach. Johnny Cash. No one questions the manhood of men like these.
So when was the last time you let yourself practice reading, or even writing, poetry? Highschool english perhaps? Back then we were all insecure, still in the process of becoming men, and often wouldn't let ourselves enjoy poetry for fear of feeling feelings and being perceived less manly.
We don't have to worry about that now. If you are a man reading this, you have already made that transition.
Or maybe it was while reading the Psalms. That counts, though the language translation leaves some of the beauty and meaning to be desired.
Some encouragement: Sit down and try reading a poem today. If you need to watch Braveheart or Dead Poets Society to put your mind in the right space, do it.
Bolder encouragement: Take 10 minutes and put pencil to paper. Don't edit it. Just write. Write about what you see out the window, what you feel in your innards, or a person near to you. Let it awkwardly flow, with or without rhythm or rhyme.
Boldest encouragement: Share your words with someone.
It's a manly practice.
Cody Buriff, Director of Resource Initiatives