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  • Sarah Rose

The Warrior Poet

[Listen to an audio version of this blog HERE.]

I have a long word doc that contains bits of poems and stories and ideas. Sometimes, right as I'm falling asleep an idea will come to me and I write it down in a notebook that lives on my nightstand. The next day, I plop whatever I wrote into the word doc. One evening, I wrote the words "Warrior Poet" in the margins of an otherwise full sheet of paper, and this is what came later. I'm not sure where it came from, or how, or why, but I've learned to not question such things.

“In order to write about life first you must live it.”Ernest Hemingway

Those with interesting lives tell great stories, which is why those who have survived some great hardship or tragedy often find themselves overflowing with words. Humans were born to tell stories, and we’ve been doing so since the beginning of our time. Poetry is the language of the warrior. Poems are the crux of honest, musical, storytelling. Or at least, they should be.

But, there are plenty of dishonest stories and endless terrible poems. Sometimes, poets look for hardships where there are none. Someone, one time, might have applauded us for playing the victim so we do that, over and over, even though we are not victims, or could easily choose not to be. A real poet, a warrior poet, is aggressively introspective, almost to a fault.

A warier poet may have been a victim once, but instead of stewing in victim-hood, the warier poet says, “This is what happened, and this is the work I did to escape my traumas and heal.”

The warrior poet feels language in nuanced and refined ways. They feel deep love and joy and similarly deep pain, but the depths of any emotion are the sweet spots, the nectar at the base of the flower bud. The warrior poet is unafraid of exploring those depths.

The warrior poet is not afraid of feeling deeply and is confused when others praise the “courage” it takes to be emotionally honest and open. The warrior poet does not assume that everyone else is living with the same degree of emotional honesty or integrity. However, she does not change in order to make others more comfortable. Instead, she embodies her emotional honesty so fully and so completely that she encourages others to consider doing so themselves. She teaches by showing, not by telling or preaching or shouting.

The warrior poet understands that vulnerability requires responsibility, and that there is an important difference between writing and astute articulation. She does not hold her audience accountable for making her feel better. She does not crave pity or undeserved attention, she simply writes and speaks with clarity and sincerity.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” He was a warrior poet. He understood that by pointing directly at the thing that hurts the most, we absolve it of its power. By uncloaking our shame, we stop feeling ashamed, and by giving voice to that which hurts the most, we are able to stop hurting. By looking deeply inward, we are unperturbed by the frivolity and redundancy and small-mindedness of the outside world.

The warier poet is not verbose. She says what she means, and does not attempt to make her pain, or joy, or heartache, or bliss any more profound that it really is, or was. She understands that being bombastic renders her unrelatable and prudish. She understands that being unnecessarily wordy is often a defense mechanism or attempt to hide behind language. The warrior poet uses language to add clarity and insight, not to confuse or embarrass her listeners.

The warrior poet is at once vulnerable and strong, a comforting presence but not a weak one. She is reliable and dedicated to her craft. When pulled away for extended periods of time, she craves her art, relishing the silence and space to make sense of her experiences and articulate any newness she has uncovered.

The warrior poet cries and laughs and smiles and frowns, not only when the world deems it appropriate to cry and laugh and smile and frown, but anytime she pleases. She is deeply grounded in the everyday and exceptionally attuned to the extraordinary, which is all around us if we would simply take the time to look.

P.S. If you Google "Warrior Poets," you'll find a group called the Warrior Poets Society, who call themselves, "a rare fraternity of warriors who fight with intellect, conviction, and great skill. Motivated by a love for others,Warrior Poets become students of the art of war so that they may triumph when the enemy calls." I don't know if these people are real warriors or simply masquerading as such, but they're worth a Google. The similarity they draw between warriors and poets is pertinent though: we are motivated by a love for others, we live with great conviction, intellect, and skill.


Sarah Rose