Sometimes we Spill our Character

by: TJ Dowko,


Manifesto: the Concept of Poetry I

I pronounce things within poems, as do you, fellow poets of the past, present, and future. Is it the art of the past, something of an antiquity, something of a novelty? Yeah, in a way, the time for poetry as a mass-media format has pasted. One only has to look at the numbers of people who read poetry chapbooks, versus the number of people who binge watch Netflix or Hulu as their muddy, droned eyes sink into their unkempt pillowcase they haven’t washed in months. You may wash your pillow case, I’m just speculating here.

We surely study it in high school and college, and isn’t that just the clue that it is, indeed, outdated, dead, dying, and struggling to survive in this world of lighted screens that infect our pockets, wrists, tables, work desks-daily? Poetry rarely infects the minds of the masses; it has become a smaller club for self-expression. People with a like mind that wish to dip a honeycomb into a medium that requires less than a super cool Go-Pro or an expensive DSLR cameras to get into. You really just need your mind to get started with poetry.

And yet, there is a huge, vast world of poetry to navigate through. So, what is a young millennial poet to do? Yeah, I used a curse word. Millennial. I’m confident that this ‘concept of poetry’ that I’m professing isn’t even that original. In fact, I know it isn’t. Let’s see how you are writing and living poetry. Are you in a comfortable armchair, with a nice cup of tea? Or are you in the middle of the forest, under a tent, while the rain sloshes down upon your rain fly? Either way isn’t wrong or right, as long as the your mind flows with the words that you’ve always feared to say out loud. Figuring out the place and time that makes you wish you were writing and your battle is won in writing. But, writing is war, so prepare yourself. We all know that feeling, once the words are on the page and we think ‘Oh, it’s finally done!’ and to that, I spit on the ground. Editing is the ugly step sister of her dashing sister, writing.

I’d let your poem sit for a good while. That way, the rose-colored glasses won’t be a disillusionment that your piece of poetry is the greatest piece of poetry ever wrangled onto the page. Yet, what you created is great; it just needs to be carved. Only a Viking will eat a whole Cornish Hen. And the Vikings only exist in our history books. Most people at Thanksgiving carve the meat. Editing is hacking the hell out of the turkey with goggles so the gristle does not splash your eyes.

Now, let’s expand your audience. Because poetry is nice, in itself, and it lives and breathes, even if only read by yourself. You want it read by more than one person so… right? Right! So do I. So submit. Be brave and find the journal that fits your piece. It takes a lot of scouting and reading in order to find a journal that you should even submit to. But it is out there. Every rejection is just one step to towards your poem’s home.

Manifesto: the Concept of Poetry II

I question the purpose of my words, at every moment. I feel that this blockade, serves no purpose. Words are linear. There are no mistakes, just words with bad timing. Therefore, in my honest opinion, poetry and any form of writing should be looked over with a fine toothed saw and hacked to pieces, then rebuilt in order to say what is truly hidden between the white spaces, that dark place where the truth lies in wait for the reader to discover themselves. I’ve found it nice to let a poem billow in the oven and bloom into a nice pillow. Then let it air dry for a while and let it crisp up. Could take a year. Could take a day. Sometimes we need a little growing up, before we know what we are really saying with our words.

Yet, there are poems out there that have stood the test of time. Speaking at the universal level is what makes poetry, poetry. That is its purpose. The longevity of universal meaning. It is difficult to come by, which is why every poet isn’t in the library or stacked on the desk of every high school student’s desk. To accompany the lasting effect of meaning, poems have to say said meaning, with an artistic functionality. This is the part that isn’t necessarily as objective as universal meaning. The universal aspect of poetry is the part that wins the hearts of the masses and allows the poem to live on in our beloved libraries and institutions. It is where the beauty comes from. The struggle to understand the world around us. People write for every meaning under the stars. From pain, to escape pain, for narcissism, for beauty, for honor, for glory. Are these good reasons to write? Sure, if they keep your pen to the paper. I’m not sure there is a single place from which poetry comes from, yet I try to reach for that place every time that I write.


Manifesto: the Concept of Poetry III

Would I be remiss, if I didn’t share my skill?


The human condition desires praise, connection.

What is a human condition but the condition of invention?

That is the concept of poetry.

I play with words till they find an idea.

Then I just string the ideas together to make poetry.

Everything I write is genius, till I see again in a week.

Then I throw it in the trash bin.

Memories cannot compete with words on the page.

The concept of poetry is the translation of moments.

Those moments disappear but the ink stains.

The concept of poetry is temporal.

Just as we cannot bottle memories, poems are free.

If I could bottle my poems they would all look different.

Black goop for the bad days, little lights for the good ones.

Red ones that flow serenely, filled with passion and romance.

Little green seeds, sticks and stones for nature.

Each of these vials labeled nearly and placed on a shelf.

Taken out, the magic swirls, and transports me back.

Back to that time that I cannot live again, just grasp at.

Till I make a vial colored blue and moody, a bottle about old times.


Would I be remiss, if I didn’t share my skill?


The human condition desires solitude, a safe place.

What is a condition anyways, but the freedom to choose?

These words are just made of simple characters on a page.

The ideas are temporary and distant.

Reflecting only the thoughts and memories I contain.

For me, writing is a release, what are you reading this for anyways?

That is the reason not to share; the idea cannot truly be translated into its purest form.

The pure form is even lost to the author.

Never to be retained just scattered characters on a page.

If I could bottle poetry, I wouldn’t.

I would leave those words raw and bloody.

They only serve one person and no one else can understand.

They reflect my life and connections are false.

Spreading ideas and infecting the minds of others.

Therefore I leave a cover over each and every poem.


Inspired by Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.


Please send all quips: @TDowko

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