John Berry, poet

You might be asking what the deal is with the “sock drawer”. Well, it’s like this. 

I was always surprised, especially when I started hosting poetry events, that everyone I met, seemingly without fail, had written a poem or two at some point in their life. It is almost as if, as humans, we can’t resist the draw of the poem as a means of expression. 

To be sure, it is usually not what anyone would consider great, or even good poetry. I still cringe when I stumble on a folded loose leaf sheet in my (still) ridiculously illegible script, but once cringed, and maybe a little weepy, I fold it up and put it away.

When I was young, it was the sock drawer where I kept them, probably like a lot of other kids my age. Why we think this is such a safe place for our bags of weed, and our poems and other secrets we don’t want to share, I can’t really say, but there they were, tucked beneath the argyles your mother insisted you wear with your Sunday suit. 

One of my favorite joys in life has been to hear someone read their poetry for the very first time. It is deliciously awkward. You can almost feel the uncontrollable vibration of parts of their bodies. They sweat. They mumble or speak so fast you can barely keep up, but they’re doing it, by God, and if that’s not a beautiful thing I don’t know what is. 

The harder thing to hear was their own criticism for what they’d written, or when they would immediately want to say things like ‘Well, it’s not as good as your poems”. It’s almost as if that was the last line of every bad poem ever written. But you know what? I don’t think poems start out that way. 

If there is one thing I notice in those sentimental, overly-alliterative poems of my youth, it’s that they all start in the same tiny fiery place – the need to say something, anything to help me make sense of the world, and not even Mary Oliver, a poet I dearly love, came from a purer place than that. That “pure place”? That’s the line where all poetry, even bad poetry, begins. 

The Sock Drawer Poet. Sure, it’s a metaphor for the secret heart, but something else occurred to me after I’d taken the name. What better place to keep our secrets and poems and tiny unanswered questions than with our humble socks, close to the ground.

Hmm, maybe there’s a Shoe Box Poet out there somewhere too. Anyway, enjoy. Browse. The sock drawer is open.

– John Berry