“Form is not a fixture but an activity.”
A good friend of mine will still occasionally pseudo-mock me for my seemingly unjustified genre jump into poetry that occurred only about a year ago. Granted, her light ridicule isn’t entirely unfounded. I entered Brown as a devout and adamant fiction writer, a fascination I still certainly hold. That being said, my relationship to poetry then was simultaneously less friendly and entirely more miniscule. In retrospect, it isn’t that difficult to parse out the reason for my indifference: I found poetry to be entirely inaccessible.
It was a genre constantly constrained by form and metre, held captive by tightly-wound, naturalistic imagery, and rarely inspired any semblance of resonance in me as a reader. It wasn’t until I began to read more contemporary poetry, particularly work by poets of color, that I realized that my experience with the genre had almost entirely been limited to the Robert Burns and the Robert Louis Stevensons of the world. I had only ever been exposed to more “classical” poetry—and yes I am aware of the ways in which that broad classification fails. By that, I only mean to say that I only knew the poetic works of those writers that I was taught, which meant older poetry that was often lauded in part for its finely tuned form and structure.
My point here is not some grand vilification of this particular tradition—even if I do have certain opinions about it—but rather to say that I never found resonance in this work. And this was primarily due to the form itself. In the rare moments that I contemplated poetry years ago, none of my attempts manifested in structured metre or static rhyme scheme and, as a result, I felt that I was writing bad poetry. And while I was most likely writing bad poetry, seeing as I was a somewhat boring adolescent with unrefined angst, the fact remains that for an overwhelming majority of my life, I believed I failed as a poet because I failed the form.
It wasn’t until I began reading more contemporary poetry by writers of color that I began to realize that maybe—just maybe—the poetic inclinations I always fell into weren’t as illegitimate as I had so haphazardly believed. And whatever opinions you might have about more contemporary poetry written by younger poets—so-called millennial poetry—my discovery of poets like Rupi Kaur, Melissa Lozada-Olvia, and Sarah Kay allowed me to understand that what I had to say and the ways in which I wanted to structure that on paper were no less legitimate because I didn’t find the standard stanza as powerful.
So in terms of defining experimental poetics, all that I can definitively say is that I believe it was experimental poetry that inspired me to write some of my own. Experimental poetics might be that which outrightly rejects a form that parades as universal, that which defies a tradition that hypes itself up as obligatory standard. And while I’m sure my view and definition of experimental poetics will become more nuanced as I embark on reading and writing more of it, I take comfort in that my writing need no longer be confined by a glass if I don’t want it to be and that others, like Lyn Hejinian, also consider form to be malleable rather than tempered.
 Hejinian, Lyn. ‘The Rejection of Closure.’ Poetry Foundation. Accessed February 12, 2018. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69401/the-rejection-of-closure.