A Poet’s Guide to Romanticizing Life

As a writer, when I started to take my craft more seriously, my perspective, too started to change. Many of the biggest trends that we’re all talking about these days are wellness, mindfulness, and learning to make the most of the life that’s given to you. Here’s a secret: poetry helped me figure that all out, way before all of these concepts began to enter mainstream media and every newsletter that hits your inbox.

The core concept of poetry is to capture a moment, or emotion, in time. It doesn’t have to be your own; you can put on your fiction hat in poetry. Another little secret about poetry: it doesn’t have to be about you. Now, don’t go around claiming other people’s experiences as your own, but if you are willing to devote the knowledge and dedication that it takes to embody a constructed experience, go for it.

Now let’s reflect on the definition of mindfulness: essentially, it means to live in the present moment. When writing poetry, you’re forced to live in that present moment because you’ll capture the finest details of life, the beauty in what seems so simple and mundane. In the online world, we find ourselves in front of screens now more than ever. The world as we knew it changed and this freelancing and work from home setup might be a bit more permanent than we expect. And so, dear reader, there are many ways to romanticize life, even when you’re not going out and traveling the world like you always have.

Naomi Shihab Nye once wrote in her poem “Kindness” that one cannot appreciate the world until it has been taken away from them, particularly in the characteristic of kindness. Instead of taking breaks by sitting on your phone and social media, go outside or stand by the window. Notice how the way sunlight seems to hit your face, or how the dust in the windowpane. Make a routine of walking the same path, and, each day, notice what’s different. What I’ve always done is carry around a notebook wherever I go and jot down images from the places I’ve ventured to, whether it’s how the sun seems to make a triangle patch of light in an alleyway, or how a certain house has changed ownership and has completely changed the shutters.

Something that helped me start to find aesthetics and romance in my everyday life was to merely realize everything around us has a deep story and heritage, whether they are people or objects. The clothing you’re wearing took a long journey to get to you, and, in some cases, carry the story of the hardship of the people who made the garment. It’s built a lot of empathy, especially in regards to people you just know are struggling, like the homeless man who sits at the intersection each day, slumped against the sign. There is nothing beautiful or romantic about another’s suffering, but by observing their circumstances and acknowledging your privilege to, say, have food and a home to go to, your life seems so much more beautiful and precious—you were taking it for granted before.

I live in Baltimore, a city known for a deep historical legacy of racism, violence, and struggle. The news depicts the city as this rough, rugged place when one can anticipate getting shot. But, as you wander the neighborhoods, you find the most dedicated people, ones carrying generational trauma, but are trying to pave a better path for the generations after them. The traditional architecture of the Baltimore rowhouses follows this, as in each era a rowhouse was designed quite differently. If I had never truly started seeking beauty in my hometown, I, too, would’ve succumbed to the expectations of who and what we were.

By experiencing the world and what it has to offer, you are capable of making the life you wish to see. And it might not be what you always dreamed of, but it has, even more, to offer you than what you expected originally. That’s the true beauty and romanticization of life–to see this hidden beauty that was blatantly right in front of you, one that you had completely missed.

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