My Long-term Love Affair with Poetry

I have always wanted to become a poet. I don’t know when it all began, perhaps it was when I first heard the pretty lines of Li Bai recited to me as a part of my bedtime stories, or perhaps it was when I first saw how the blocky Chinese characters on paper can have such elegant form, yet uniform in its overall shape (there is a requirement on the number of syllables in each line of traditional poetry, so all the lines are the same length). But how it began matters little. I’ve been trying to write poetry ever since I could remember.

Throughout my teenage years, I was especially “prolific” in my poetry creations. In middle school, I did not feel that the schoolwork was especially challenging for me, so I had a lot of spare time to pursue this hobby. I would write when I get home from school, and sometimes even in school. In high school, I became busy with IB courses, AP courses, community service, and college applications, but that didn’t stop me from writing. I found time to write whenever I could.

Everything between me and poetry seemed fine until college, during which phase I experienced a long lapse of what some people would call writer’s block. I didn’t write much of anything, especially poetry. True, I wrote papers for my courses, but they were nothing like creative writing. Sometimes I felt that I should pick up my pen to jot something down, but in the end I resort to hanging out with friends. I felt that, if I weren’t studying or sleeping, then I should be socializing, or I’d be “missing out”. Other sources of stress also impeded upon my writing habit, such as my mother’s car accident.

At one point, I even forgot what it felt like to write poetry, or how good it used to make me feel. When I see others writing, I would be briefly reminded of what I lost, but then I would quickly dismiss my remorse, mentally making a list of all the excuses I’d tell myself over and over again for not writing. Eventually, life became more bland and empty for me. I also stopped believing that each person is unique. I was just like everyone else, I thought. After all, there was nothing I did that distinguished me from anyone else.

During my senior year, I made a big decision, I was not going to go on like this, not without writing. I tried to give myself a head-start “boost” by taking a course called “Asian Poetry”, and enjoyed it thoroughly. As I hoped, it rekindled my interest in what I’ve always loved, and that is poetry, also writing in general. After the course ended, I wrote less frequently, but learnt to keep a steady pace at it. If I were busy, I would write on buses or trains, on a notepad phone app. If not, I would set aside a chunk of time each day to write. So far it has been working out well for me.

Now that I look back upon it, I realize that, the relationship between an individual and his/her hobby sometimes resembles that of one between people. In a relationship between people, the “flame” isn’t just going to keep on burning by itself, especially if neither party makes any effort to maintain it. A relationship, no matter how perfect it is or how much “spark” it had in the beginning, needs nourishment. In a similar way, I always have to keep working at developing my relationship with my poetry onto a higher level. If I don’t give it enough care and attention, leaving it untouched for a while, it may just wither away gradually, or just simply leave me, like an unhappy partner breaking up with me from a malnourished relationship.

Xiao Fu

Xiao Fu

Xiao Fu is a writer and English teacher based in New York City. You can contact her at xiaofu@post.harvard.edu.

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