I’ve begun a new habit of reading poetry each morning before I begin to write. At the moment, I’m working through the seventh edition of Contemporary American Poetry, edited by A. Poulin, Jr. and Michael Waters. I’m doing this to educate myself, but I’m also doing this to inspire my writing every day.

Once upon a time, I listened to music to inspire my writing. The problem though is that when music is playing I need to sing. The singing becomes a distraction from writing. Or, I write song lyrics rather than whatever else I intended to write. Not that I’m against song lyrics. Just that song lyrics aren’t all I want to write.

So now I’m trying this poetry-reading device. And it seems to be working. After all, I’m sitting here composing this post.

I’m zoning in on the styles of writing that most appeal to me. I’ve noticed I like a direct voice, unapologetic, real. I dislike obscurity, language that is so metaphorical I can’t be certain I understand exactly what an author means. I like rhythm and a husky timbre, like smooth jazz. But then, I like a hard rock kick in the ass just as well.

When I respond to a particular poet, I read the notes on that poet’s life and work in the back of the book. More often than not I discover the poet is simply an ordinary person much like myself. Maybe I’m the only one shocked by this. For me, it’s a revelation that an ordinary person like myself might potentially write something extraordinary. These people fold their laundry and mow their lawns, and they write poems examining the whys and whos and hows we all contemplate but rarely speak out loud.

It’s good to feel not so odd.