This Is Cool
I remember sitting in my living room, on the old sofa way too big for my tiny 6 year old self. My parents were upstairs taking care of my baby brother; I didn’t care one bit about their giving attention to him because I was well occupied by the television. I watched the overhead drone shots of a parade of elephants migrating across the savanna. The man with the british accent said the leader was a female. The matriarch. In all the hours I’d spent watching real life creature-features and larger than life reels (well, all the hours my mom and dad let me sit by the screen) I had never heard of a group of animals being lead by the female. The herd’s elder was a mother to all. She took in orphaned calves, with beautiful ivory tusks and heart the size of a compact car. It resonated with me; even in the world of animals, females could lead. This matriarch lead. She lead her family of 30 stunningly grand elephants hundred of miles to find water.
This was cool.
I didn’t care much for reading until middle school. If my mom didn’t make me read, I certainly wouldn’t. It was seventh grade at Dunbar Middle School. We were each given worn out copies of The Giver by Lois Lowry. Back then I wasn’t perpetually tired and living off of microwave popcorn and mandarin oranges(I’m sorry, Mom)so I was still eager to do assignments for grades even if I didn’t want to. After the first chapter, I couldn’t stop. My mind was blown. “This is insane! It’s so sad! What do you mean there’s no color in the world?! What are the bad people gonna do next?!” I thought to myself.
The Giver made me feel emotional; it transported me to a different world. I learned about the power of fiction. Art in the form of words. Next came Z for Zachariah, then “The Black Cat”. Sure they were dark. However, that was what amazed me. Somewhere another human thought up something crazy, mysterious, and fanciful then created it.
This was cool.
Wanna know what’s the coolest thing to a 15 year old girl, who doesn’t want to be “girly” anymore? Grunge music. Early high school was the age of band tees and flannels. By tenth grade I picked up an electric bass for the first time. Why? Because it looked cool! However cringe-worthy it may be, choosing a hobby based on aesthetic appeal, learning to play music helped me through the most exhausting parts of highschool.
Along with playing music, I also started attending shows locally and regionally. I sought out places where I could lace up my Docs and make myself feel cool, as cool as a tenth grader with no driver’s license that couldn’t even pay for her own cover charge could be. I lived for the jarring feedback from the electric guitars and yelling vocals. Even if my tastes have changed, the feeling still remains. The feeling of seeing other’s passionately share their crafts and how badly I wanted to trade places just to see what it felt like.
This was cool.
I always felt misguided in the realm of poetry. The expansive list of the rules scared me, or what I thought were the rules. I didn’t think in any special meter (like they used to say Shakespeare did). I didn’t know what words to use without sounding pretentious.
Most debilitatingly, I did not think I could do it.
Thanks to a healthy mix of poor self esteem and anxiety; I chose to not share my poetry over running the chance of being criticized. I saw The Listening at Riverviews Artspace my junior year of highschool. There in the empty gallery standing in front of the microphone on old hardwood floors, people spoke. It wasn’t a speech, it wasn’t a reading of “Sonnet 18”, and it wasn’t “just rap without the beat.” People spoke words crafted inside the furnaces of their minds using fire from their hearts. They spoke about love, loss, politics, not-politics-but-you-still-need-to-give-a-damn, triumph, and Christopher Columbus being a racist bastard (@adamsnavely). It was poetry, but it wasn’t scary.
Poetry as it was then and how I continue to experience it now transcends rules, missing commas, rhyming (or not rhyming), or judgement. I can write about comparing my first love to a cactus fruit or I can write an open letter to the United States. The world of poetry is cathartic, strange, hilarious, melancholic, and (you guessed it) cool.
Everything was cool. And it continues to be.
Cool evokes emotion. Cool is laughter inducing, awe inspiring, adrenalin pumping, ugly face crying. There is cool in uncool. Cool finds you at 6 years old and 19 years old. Cool is timeless. Do not let the feeling of cool leave you as you grow old. I promise it’s not just me. Define cool. Let yourself live your cool. Write about your cool.
Tell us about your cool.
And we will listen.