Is Poetry Important? Well, It’s Saved My Life.

There once was a fairly popular jazz singer from New York named Susannah McCorkle. She recorded quite a few albums, performed all over the place, and had a steady gig at the Algonguin Hotel at 59 W. 44th St. in Manhattan. (Yes, I’ve stayed there before. Gorgeous private wet bar in my room). But, you know how it is with businesses – out with the old, in with the new. As the Algonquin started hiring new, younger vocalists, the writing was on the wall – Susannah was about to go the way of the dodo bird.

Susannah had been a singer, and primarily just a singer, since she discovered Billie Holiday. She was in her early 20’s at the time. Dedicating her life to interpretation of the classics, she gained a bit of notoriety. All of that came crashing down when the management of Algonquin told her, when she was around 54 years old, to clear out her locker. A breast cancer survivor, and plagued for years by depression, she did what a lot of folks did with no other foreseeable source of income – take a flying leap out of their window. In her case, it was the 18th floor of her flat at 41 West 86th St. (Side note: I used to live at 313 West 81st St., eight blocks from her place).

Which brings us to poetry. There are all types of it: traditional, free verse, haiku, rhyming, ghazal, experimental, prose, etc. It’s almost endless. When you’ve lived for a fairly long time, believe me, the amount of stories you can tell is endless. And that’s what I’m finding out. As I’ve said in earlier posts, I started writing poems in earnest in the middle of February of this year, and so far, I’ve written about 220 poems. That’s quite a lot of stories, and I don’t even feel like I’m done.

Which brings us back to Susannah McCorkle. If I could could back in time, I’d tell her these things:

  1. Homelessness is not the end of the world. It’s just a temporary setback that, in time, will pass.
  2. Write poems about your life, your experiences, your loves and hates, but keep that ink flowing as if your life depended on it, because it does.
  3. Forget the naysayers who say you don’t have the gift of Shakespeare, Whitman, or Longfellow. Forge your own path. Let them keep up with you. In that sense, you’ve won. And congratulations from me.

Downtown Seattle Living

I’ve moved in temporarily to an aPODment on First Hill in Spruce Park. It’s a pretty quiet area and is near medical centers like Swedish, Harborview, and so on. An aPODment, for those who don’t know, is basically an SRO – Single Room Occupancy type of deal. You get a bathrooom but no kitchen. It’s a very small studio that comes with a bed, microwave, shelves, and triangular desk. The utilities, as well as internet, is included in the price. The price is $775. Mine is being paid through the HEN (Housing & Essential Needs) program. I’ll have the apartment for three months because that is when HEN expires. August 31 will be my last day there. (I wasn’t eligible for a HEN extension because DSHS’ doctor claims my continued disability rises to the level of requiring SSD and therefore I should go to the ABD (Aged, Blind & Disabled) program. This means I’ll be homeless, once again, from September 1 till my SSD kicks in which should be around January 2015 – if it kicks in, that is. In other news, I visit a therapist every two weeks and see a psychiatrist once a month. My depression hasn’t abated, though. I think about suicide constantly. Sometimes I make concrete plans to end it. The best one I’ve come up with so far is to buy heroin from the street, cook it, and overload my system with it. Last year there were 99 heroin OD’s resulting in death in Seattle alone so I know it’s possible. There were probably more deaths from heroin than from jumping off bridges or standing in front of moving trains. I apologize for this post being so depressing and negative. I just needed to get all these feelings off my chest as it becomes unbearable sometimes.