I was pretty lucky growing up in that I went to public schools where my English teachers recognized my capacity for writing and tried in every way possible to nurture this desire and encourage me to pursue it. My mother was also very supportive, and took me to buy a used electric typewriter when I wanted one, because I wanted to be the next Stephen King. It’s for that reason that in middle school, I actually wrote a 150 page horror novel. It was terrible, sure, but hey, it was what I was certain I wanted to do when I grew up. In high school I drifted away from writing so much, because I was distracted by a sudden passionate love for music. It’s in my passion for music that I think my love of poetry first cultivated, because unlike some writers out there who seem to pass off song lyrics as tepid or simple rhyming attempts of cliched sentimentality, and not real poetry, for me, I was always drawn more to great lyrics in songs than anything else. I think if a songwriter tries to uncover some truth about the human condition in their lyrics, then no matter what the rhyme scheme of their words, they’re also writing poetry, because I think a poet’s first obligation is to be honest and strive to show a reader something about life in a way they never thought of it before. You can take many songs of Bob Dylan, Billy Corgan, Bruce Springsteen, and others, read their lyrics and still get something from them without the musical accompaniment. When I started getting into music, I started learning guitar, and naturally progressed into writing my own songs. I wanted to write great lyrics like the songwriters I admired, and so I strived to write lyrics that could also stand on their own as poetry. During this time, in school I was also studying the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson, and I started writing some poems of my own as well. I had a great English teacher that would sometimes let me read poems I wrote to the class before that day’s lesson, and I will never forget the reaction I got when I read a poem I had written called “Murder Suicide.” I was probably a bit of a troubled teen, and at this age I was already learning to use language as an outlet for pent up emotions. When I read that poem to the class, which was about me wanting to confront my biological father, at least two people were crying at the end of it, and one person got angry, saying I had glorified suicide, and I had to defend my position. It was then I understood that words are very powerful, and can deliver a hefty punch, garnering strong reactions from readers, and I knew that I was capable of causing those reactions much like I had felt them from others’ works that I had read. At that moment, I was in love with poetry, even though I wouldn’t decide to seriously pursue the craft for many years. I’ve written tons of songs and tons of poems since then, and I can only hope that I get some sort of emotional reaction from each of them from at least one person, even if it’s only me, and that I have made an honest effort to uncover some version of the truth. I know I am bound to have failed more than I’ve succeeded, but you have to be willing to fail as an artist in order to gain those small successes that make you feel like what you’re doing is worth a damn.