Journey Into Poetry: Chris Yokel

I think I was born with poetry in my blood. It just took me a while to realize that.

My mom tells me I could talk before I could walk, so it seemed pretty clear from the start that words and their wonderful ways were going to be my forte. And considering I have a graduate degree in English, that would’ve been an excellent guess. English and language-related studies were always my strongest subjects.

In light of that, I find it ironic that the way I most engage with words these days—poetry—was forged through much frustration and years of silence.

I cringe when I think back to some of the early verses I scribbled out as a youngster and early teenager. One of the worst things about those days was that I thought poetry had to rhyme, so I was a zealous adherent to that rule, to the detriment of my art. That, and I was still so young and new to the world. I knew there were things I wanted to say, ineffable depths to the world around me that I wanted to express, but it came out as cheap imitation and cliché. I thought I had a voice, yet the more I wrote, the less certain I was. It got to point where I was so frustrated I just gave up. And there was silence for many years.

Thankfully, I still continued to read poetry, good poetry, and I think it was part of what did the trick. That and just life. I particularly credit T.S. Eliot with helping me realize so much of what poetry could do.

Then it just happened. I was about 19 or 20. I’d been thinking about some of the important life experiences different friends and I had been going through, and sensing a new weight of maturity. Suddenly I felt the old urge, long buried. So I sat down and began to write:

These eyes
Lit with wisdom learned from years
Or wisdom of the years compressed
As it were, in mighty gasps upon me laid
In measures full
Of pain like daggers silent in my heart
Of thoughts in silence, contemplation
Of the great universe …

And that was it. It was as if the barrier had been broken forever. I haven’t stopped since.

These days, I can’t imagine my life without poetry. It’s the way my soul speaks to the world, the way my eyes look at trees and sunshine and little streams and skyscrapers. Sometimes I even think in poetry.

Even though I’ve been going at this for a while, sometimes I feel like that baby again, unlocking self-expression for the first time. Truth and beauty remain just ahead of me, flitting through the trees like shadows. I’m on a journey of discovery, constantly learning new notes for my voice. But at least now I know that I have one.

Photo by Claire Burge. Used with permission. Post by Chris Yokel.


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  1. says

    “. . . unlocking self-expression for the first time”: that phrase carries so much truth. Poetry-writing gives us a way into discovering what’s under the surface and has wanted for words.

  2. L. L. Barkat says

    I can relate the to the “thinking in poetry.” Sometimes I can hardly get to a piece of paper fast enough!

    I was considering the other day… that someday my brain might read like one big poem… and then who would understand me anymore (except maybe a good poet friend or two :)

    • L. L. Barkat says

      I answer to most anything that winks :) No worries. 😉 (Besides, my father named me Laurie and called me that and my mother put Laura on the birth certificate and then they each stuck to their own. What’s one more Laur[x] in the mix?)

      I have a next book. I just have to find the time to write it. Or maybe just the courage. Seeing that all the poems already exist. :)


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