AH! The past few weeks have been crazy for me, but I’m finally able to slow down a little and wanted to pop in and say hi! How are you feeling? It’s cold and raining here. I’m sipping a lukewarm soy chai latte at Starbucks because I got caught up journaling and forgot it was there. Since January, I’ve been bringing a reusable cup and it makes me feel way less guilty about my frequent coffee shop visits. I have a deadline this week so I’ve been spending a lot of time writing in coffee shops. For some reason, I have a hard time getting creative at home. I’m able to focus much better when I go out somewhere with the intention of writing. It might be different if I had a specific spot to write in at home (like my own office…someday) but our apartment is pretty small, so my options are either the couch or the kitchen table. When it gets warmer, I can start writing on our balcony. I’m excited for that.
Like I said, I have a deadline. The most important one of my career thus far. I have loved writing forever, but I could have never guessed I’d end up a poet. My grandmother was a writer and I idolized her. I would sit on the floor next to her blue velvet armchair and listen to her tell stories about all the writing contests she won. She was an amazing storyteller. I would give anything to be able to read something of hers now, but I’m not sure any of it was even saved. In elementary school, I entertained the idea of being an author. I’d write the first couple chapters of a book and then get bored. Then, somehow I got the idea in my head that I wanted to move to New York City and become a journalist (so really, Leah Lu is living MY childhood dream??? Haha.) In seventh grade, I was the only 7th grade editor on my school’s newspaper (I love(d) bragging about this.)
Meanwhile, I thought I hated poetry. In 10th grade, we had a guest speaker come in and read The Red Wheelbarrow. She made us guess what it meant. It infuriated me. I can still remember her face as she slowly walked back and forth across the room with an expression that obnoxiously hissed, “I know something that you don’t.” She never gave us any sort of explanation or commentary. And while I can appreciate The Red Wheelbarrow today, I wish my English teachers had started us off on more accessible poetry (hello, Mary Oliver!) so that we could appreciate the classics with more understanding. Instead, we just checked out.
Oof. It wasn’t until I discovered Tumblr poetry that I truly engaged. The two writers that opened my eyes to poetry were Lang Leav and connotativewords (aka -jl). I could actually read and understand what their poetry was conveying and it made me feel things. And once I was properly introduced, I naturally branched out. Now, I pick up classic literature that requires several close-reads for me to fully grasp it and I truly enjoy it in a way I never thought I would. The classics are classics for a reason. It feels good to read a non-straightforward poem and dissect it till you “get it.” And then realize that there are a million ways to “get it.” Poetry is a gorgeous art form that takes so many different shapes.
So fast-forward to today. This new wave of “simplified” poetry garners a lot of intense disapproval from other writers. And to be honest, I understand where they are coming from. There are people who spend years and years formally learning about poetry (which, by the way, many “IG poets” have studied poetry formally as well! They’re not mutually exclusive), only to see others finding success apart from all of the rules and guidelines they’ve been taught. It doesn’t make sense to them, so they write long, hateful articles disguised as “criticism,” but not once have I seen any of these opinionated pieces offer anything constructive. And rarely have they attempted to read more than one or two poems by a particular artist. They just pick and choose pieces that fit their narrative. It seems a lot like they just want a pat on the back for being “a true poet” (or lover of “true poetry.”) Divisiveness and invalidation do nothing but feed egos. (I could rant forever about this)
There are people who genuinely love writing and there are people who want to achieve success instantly without effort, so they mimic. It’s naïve to think those people don’t exist. But that makes up a relatively small percentage and should not discount the community as a whole. The “Instagram poets” I love and support put their whole hearts into writing and while many of their poems (and most of mine) do not require deep contemplation to understand their message, they’re still so valuable. And vulnerable. And fucking artistic. The bottom line is—people are reading these poems and feeling seen. Feeling understood. Feeling. And if something can make you feel something, there is something to it. People debate all the time what the definition of poetry is, and I think that’s how I would define it. If it makes you feel something, it’s poetry.
Hearts don’t all look the same. We’re not all going to connect with the same poetry, but that doesn’t make one lesser than the other. Just different. Ultimately, a younger generation is opening their eyes to poetry again. That is no small feat. And it’s in huge part due to the poets who got their start online and are continuously invalidated. This sub-genre really didn’t even exist a few years ago (although, the aforementioned and highly-acclaimed Mary Oliver kind of walked so IG poets could run), and now Rupi Kaur has been on Jimmy freaking Fallon and Lang Leav is attracting thousands to her worldwide signings. And they (and I!) started off self-published. It’s fucking impressive. I’m so proud to sit on shelves next to them.
Okay, I didn’t have the intention of writing all of that when I began this email, but I guess I had to let it out, haha. What I really came here to say is that I’ve been working hard as hell on my third book, and I get to tell you more so so so soon. My past two books were written leisurely and without a deadline. This one is my most intentional piece of work yet. I had to sit down and write when I didn’t want to, and holy shit, did I discover so much about myself through that process. I went deeper than I ever have. Wrote about things I didn’t even know I felt until the words were in front of me. I’m so eager (and a little scared) to share this with you. Keep an eye on my Instagram and Twitter because I will be revealing some more information soon. And wait till you hear who is illustrating it. (!!!)
My whole heart explodes when I look back at the little girl who wanted to be a writer like her grandmother, to the teenager who hated poetry, to the teenager who sucked at poetry but kept writing anyway—and then, in the mirror, at the very much still a work-in-progress woman who has now written three books. It’s surreal. And I owe so much to your support. I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to keep doing this thing without your constant encouragement. But now I am here and so in love and dedicated to what I do and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Thank you for helping me believe in myself in my dreams. I love you so much.
Enough mushiness. I hope the rest of your week is dreamy. Listen to Bea Miller’s new song and go conquer the world. I can’t wait for what is to come.