STATE OF THE ART
The Virus Is Silence: Wisdom from a Young Culture Warrior
Hey, do you want to join the poetry club I’m starting?
Naw man, I don’t understand poetry.
Hey, do you want to join the poetry club? I run it, and I’m looking for people interested.
Haha, no. Poetry’s stupid.
Hey, do you want to join the poetry club I’m desperately trying to find members for?
No. Poetry is pretentious and annoying.
These are responses I received while trying to find members to start a poetry club at my high school. To start a club at my school, you need at least thirty signatures of people interested in participating. A lot of people were willing to sign to help get the club started, but blatantly said they would not attend because it’s a poetry club. My peers are filled with pre-read stereotypes of poetry, and trying to start the club powerfully displayed it to me. They call it whiny and pretentious, stupid, without having read into poetry.
Everyone can think what they may of poetry, negatively or positively. People have the right to their opinions. What bothers me is the fact that most of these ‘critics’ do not give poetry a chance. My peers go off with what they are taught about poetry in high school, which is that poetry is a form of literature that can be tweaked until it is correct, that it is confined and constrictive, complicatedly overbearing. We are usually taught through clear, narrative medias that are easier to understand. A narrative media is a form of media, like a book, with the story being clearly delivered. Poetry, in comparison, is considered obscure and takes effort on the reader’s part to understand, to learn from, to take something away and cherish it. The teachers drone this lesson that they don’t even want to teach, and present it miserably, and misery loves company. This may not apply to all high schools, but it applies particularly to mine.
The virus spreading this disease of contempt for poetry is silence. Those who write poetry have voice, powerful voices, too often ignored by the general public, including the youth, due to stereotypes passed around and the safety of mimicking another person’s convictions without testing the waters for yourself. There is a large poetic community. Poetry is appreciated by millions of people. But in today’s seizure-media flashing forms of entertainment, where the quick quick quick burn of easy going narration is appreciated, poetry is lost.
Why not push our voices further? Why not scream our voices to them, show them what poetry is and isn’t?
In order to break this silence, Nostrovia! Poetry was founded. Nostrovia! Poetry is a small publishing press with a mission: to combat the stereotypes of poetry and promote writing, especially to young people. Small, but steadily growing, Nostrovia! Poetry’s voice is becoming louder. Though Nostrovia! Poetry has a voice, alone, it is not enough. We need to work together to crank the volume.
We work hard on our poems. We read them over, attempting to find the poem’s voice with our own. They’re never perfect, never can be, but we keep building them, word by word, line by line. Some of us write Kerouac spontaneously, and others write with carefully planned Haiku. Poetry is a collective organism that breaks down, cell by cell, to Us, every individual poet. More people would find enjoyment in poetry if they surrendered the pretensions for one moment, and slipped themselves within the confines of golden red lyrical beauty depicting a blue afternoon, summer beer, and warmth of conversation. Or a poem slapping the face of general society due to some injustice, or a poem burning the previous styles and pushing the boundaries with kerosene words, and so on. There is so much diversity in poetry that there is something for everyone.
Before Nostrovia! Poetry was a press, it operated as a website dedicated solely to my writing. It focused its lens on a collection of poems titled Nostrovia! that was mutilated by a vanity press when I was ignorant of the publishing industry and the literally thousands of options available to writers and poets. At one point during this, I grew bored of talking about myself.
A guest blog was added to the website to publish and promote other poets. Nostrovia! Poetry began to slowly trickle with growth. Publishing and sharing other writers’ poems was more fulfilling than sharing my own, and Nostrovia! Poetry began conducting a weekly contest (now monthly) to further promote, and spread word of, poetry.
The site was growing steadily. With its growth, Nostrovia! Poetry evolved into a small press, and dived headfirst into the waters of publishing that were refreshingly cold and unknown. Milk & Honey Siren was organized, and Nostrovia! Poetry began staking its claim as a fledgling press.
Milk & Honey Siren is a nonprofit anthology of poetry and short fiction published February 1st, 2013. The list of poets in the anthology includes Kyle Hemmings, Roger Kees, and Nathan Hondros, and too many other wonderful writers to list. Milk & Honey Siren is a step toward raising the volume on Nostrovia! Poetry’s voice, and the voice of all poets and writers included within the publication.
With the anthology published, Nostrovia! Poetry stubbed its fingers in zine publishing, and is currently preparing the one-issue publication of Too Obscene, a zine for poetry and flash fiction deemed “too obscene” for publication by other presses and publishers. The content submitted thus far truly fits the mission and name. Many of the poems aren’t “obscene” because of language, but rather, obscene due to their nature and content. They contain tales that people are scared to tell.
Its voice resonating online, Nostrovia! Poetry has taken to the streets with promotional and poetic efforts. Nano Poem Collections are hand-folded mini-chapbooks made of a single sheet of paper. These are distributed at open mics, stuck under your windshield wiper, through both supportive bookstores and unwitting bookstores, poetry festivals, meet ups, and slams. Through bookstores, Nostrovia! Poetry conceals Nano Poem Collections within poetry collections and related books, in stores as big as Barnes & Nobles, down to your local independent bookseller. This “guerilla tactic” works well. A friend discovered two collections at a local thrift shop, Modus Operandi and A Three Poem Collection. Nano Elvis by Susana H. Case and American Dreams by Ocean Voung are two of the latest Nano Poem Collections made available. Each Nano Poem Collection published is also available as a free ebook.
Distributing these collections does more than just promote poetry, though. It brings my peers together. A large majority of my friends help distribute, put up flyers, walk around cities, and meet new faces. They experience poetry far past the stereotypes. Doing this builds a personal connection with poetry for them. They fall in love, just as we did.
The only limits on your ability to promote your poetry and writing are your own creativity and ambition. Take steps forward; promote your work. Take your passion and empower more than just your writing.
The virus is silence. And we are the cure.
Jeremiah Walton was born February 12, 1995. He lives in New England where he attends high school, and manages Nostrovia! Poetry, a small publishing press. He is author of LSD Giggles, Modus Operandi, and To Your Health: Humanity’s Diagnosis.
More from Jeremiah Walton:
Nostrovia! Poetry: http://www.nostroviatowriting.com/
Nostrovia! On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NostroviaWriting