Poetry and My Friend Jose

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I’ve heard that the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Here’s my admittance but I don’t think I want to recover.

Recently (as in the last two months) I’ve been absolutely obsessed with poetry. I’m not gonna lie, my Pinterest account is littered with poems, quotes from famous poets, hipster artistic representations of poems, and the occasional inspirational quote. My desk here in my growing-smaller dorm room is sprinkled with green post-it notes with collections of poems to go hunt down in the library this afternoon and I have a few scraggly corners of pages with some names and page numbers scratched across them, showing the haste in which they were written. It’s all there and I’m unashamed.

It wasn’t always like this. I could appreciate a poem and the lyrical rhyme into which a writer has organized a series of words, but I never particularly liked it or valued it. Until now. I can actually tell you exactly when this started. I stumbled upon an Instagram account of someone named Tyler Knott Gregson, a photographer and writer from Montana. Reading his poetry, haikus, and stories gave me a free ticket to his inner thoughts and grabbed my hand, yanking me into this world of lyrical literature. I would like to think that I was kidnapped by the writers and poets I discovered after that point. It was as if I had no chance of getting out of this without a minor obsession.

So as you can imagine, when our dear Mr. Gregson (I don’t know if he and I are on a first-name basis or not) released his first collection of poetry (all remnants of his Typewriter Series), I got so excited about finally having a hard-copy of his work that I pre-ordered Chasers of the Light in July and have finally received my copy. You guys, it’s so amazing. I could go on and on for many more paragraphs about his style, his incorporated photography, and every beloved aspect of this small collection, but I don’t want to take away the joy of discovering it all on your own (considering you’re probably ordering it on Amazon right now anyway.)

This obsession has taken me into the literary worlds of Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who led me to Zelda Fitzgerald, Robert M. Drake, and many many more. But what I wasn’t expecting was for it to take me into the world of my friend, Jose.

I met Jose the other night through one of my other friends. Jose is a quirky English major who is on the track team and may or may not have OCD (I’m working on that diagnosis). He and I were talking about art and writing, our favorite authors, the literary genius that is poetry, when suddenly our own personal writing came up. We started comparing blogs and I ended up learning so much about him that night: his interests, writing style, philosophy on humanity, high school best friends, our shared interest in stargazing, etc.

He told me a story that night that I felt like sharing with you. Not because it’s particularly amazing or full of comedic moments, but because it’s one that describes who he is and I believe that when someone trusts you enough to step out and share a personal chunk of themselves with you, it should be remembered.

“As we got to the comedy show, we sat down in the seats Hannah’s friends had saved for us.  She introduced me to all of them and I awkwardly acknowledged the fact that they were breathing.  Hannah spotted some friends across the room, and as she left me to be socially inept in a room filled with people who seemed exponentially more secure with themselves than I was, one of the guys she introduced me to slid into her seat and asked, “So what’s your story?”
     “So what’s your story?”
Let me tell you something.  Never, ever, have I been asked this question.  Most people ask surface-level questions upon meeting you. They ask where you’re from and what you’re studying and if you’re involved in any clubs. But no…this question, this question seeks to know your soul.  And I have been waiting forever for someone to ask me this.
But to be honest, when he asked me this I had no idea what to say.  No one had ever asked me something like this before so I never had a need to prepare the answer.  What I found, though, was that even though I didn’t have an answer planned out, I was my own answer.  I just had to vocalize everything that I had thought about myself, everything I had fantasized about my being.  And here’s how it went.  Here’s my story, here’s who I am.
‘I’m an introverted optimist who is trying to break out of his shell.  I’m awkward and unfortunate and am in love with humanity.  I believe that you create the world you live in, which is why I’m eternally positive and unwaveringly kind.  I hate small talk and big groups, labels, negative people, and the ever-present fear of being yourself.  I like tea and books and poetry, small tattoos and indie music.  I like faded polaroids, inspirational quotes, and when you read a book so much that the binding wears down into a flimsy film.  I am a strong proponent of comfortable silence and the oxford comma.  I am in love with people I’ve never met and places I’ve never seen, with dictions and dialects I feel but don’t yet understand.  I love sharing my soul.’
And that’s who I am.  Unabridged, unencumbered.  In my simplest form and most basic definitions.  I am Jose, the introverted optimist who loves the little things in life.”

When he finished, there was a gap for silence. I just let them hang there, his words, and let them soak into the room. I guess I didn’t really need to respond.
That night I felt honored to have had the privilege to compare souls with someone who was so similar to myself. That night I learned that if someone gives you permission to read their work, their blog, their poems, or their songs, they’re giving you a free ticket to their exposed soul and thoughts and you shouldn’t take that lightly. That night I learned that poetry brings people together; so thank you, Tyler Knott Gregson for starting a poetic epidemic running through my life.
But most importantly, that night I learned that maybe we should start asking questions like, “So what’s your story?”

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