March 21st is marked by UNESCO as World Poetry Day, first adopted in 1999 with the aim of promoting linguistic diversity in poetic expression. I didn’t know that information until I started researching the date for this article, and for me that rings so deeply true. As a neurodivergent person, who’s traditional language was stolen from them through acts of genocide – poetry has been a vehicle of reclamation and self-discovery.
I don’t remember the first time I wrote a poem, though I know it was in high school and I know for certain it rhymed. Because thin eyebrowed, goth teenage Brooke didn’t yet know the expansive nature of poetry, and what it would – one day – do for her. I didn’t know that I would be published and perform across this continent and even win 2nd place in a national poetry prize.
For me, poetry has been the most accessible literary art form. It can be as long or short as you would like, the rules and constraints of (in my case) the English language are defunct, in fact there are almost no rules except those you choose to follow. Because of these reasons, poetry was my first love. Not only do I get to ‘choose my own adventure’, but it has been a way for me as a neurodivergent Indigenous person, to paint a picture for the wider world and even for me, to understand my deepest emotional self.
In 2019 I had my first piece of writing published, which was a short memoir piece for SBS, about my Grandmother and her experiences as a member of the Stolen Generations. While I felt called to write this article for my Nan and our family, to share our truths and the importance of honesty within Blak families, this piece took a lot to write and put together because of both the content and the style. Where I feel bound by rules in essay writing, and drained by formal expressions of opinion and thought – poetry fills my cup. I can look to Country to find common ground to express feelings and experiences, so that those around me might feel seen, heard, and understood. I have since written poetry about my Nan, about loss and about our culture, and all these pieces have felt revitalising. In 2020, I combined both poetry and essay in a piece for Running Dog on Blak Parenting.
I say poetry changed my life, because I truly believe it did and that I can for you too. Everyone, and I mean everyone, can write poetry. As an art form, poetry is a basic human function that exists as a method of universal cultural expression for our species. The world tells us our art needs to be a competition, to be ‘the best’, to make money – but I argue that all poetry, even the Emo lyrics you wrote in year 10, needs to exist.
So, this International Poetry Day, I challenge you – go write some bad poetry, some angry poetry, write longing and love, write desire – write something! Even if it’s just for you.
Here is a short, unedited piece I wrote while teaching a poetry workshop for teens, because even our first drafts deserve to live.
As Tree Bark
Bark peels as skin from my back
As taken children
Through season and cycle
A change unending
Brittle and dried
She sheds history from her lips
Burnt by sun and salt
Bark grows as skin on my back
Again and again she returns to this place
Of bark tongue
And ghost gum