John Berry, poet

The first time I ever hosted an open mic, I had prepared some words to kick off the event. It had never ceased to amaze me how, when poetry would be mentioned, almost everyone in the room would have at least some experience of writing a poem at one time or another in their life. And for many they had been writing poems on and off for years, but had never shared them.

This brought to my mind a vision of people everywhere having these small stashes of poetry hidden in their sock drawers; little bits of their lives, emotions and impressions of the world around them cached where their secrets were kept. There was something about that image of the sock drawer that clung to me like bits of white lint on a black shirt—a metaphor, of course for our secret hearts, but also so intriguingly a tangible phenomenon. This was real blood; blood that one could taste and feel pumping through the abstract chambers of the secret heart.

What I began to understand, too, was that all poetry begins on equal footing. The same can be said for any form of creative expression. No matter who you are, whether you are a poet laureate with an MFA and a tenured position, or a high school freshman writing poems upstairs in your room, when that spark to create brings your pen to the paper the poem already exists, and it is in perfect harmony with all of creation. If we are the divine creations of a Divine Love as Love ourselves, then to create is as much a part of our nature as a tree creating beautiful apples or the wind creating a lovely song as it blows through the pines.

Connecting, as I have been blessed to do with many people sharing their poems, it is painful to hear them deride their poetry, or to compare themselves in a less than positive light to another.
I am not trying to suggest that every poem is equal in quality. All I need do is to recite Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese to myself, and then read my own to know the difference. But what I also know is when the light came on which illuminated the family of things or perhaps you do not have to be good in her heart, it was the very same light by which I saw my feet bottoms all green and brown/ just like God in my poem, Soft-Soled.

To put it simply, the Sock Drawer is that place within all of us where our true selves are most at home. It is the space holding that which excites us as nothing else can, and which we, too often, have pushed into the dark with the lonesome single socks the dryer returned. The Sock Drawer is always there at the top of the dresser. It is always within reach, but far too easy to ignore, laden as it is with the mundane reminders of our practical lives. It is the vessel of our soulful calling.

– John Berry

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