When I was 4 years old, I was in a daycare program where naptime was required. Every day, we'd spread our mats onto the floor and lay in a cluster of Osh Kosh B'gosh, smelling like crayons and graham crackers, and expected to lay still for forty minutes.
I was terrible at naptime. According to my mother, I stood up and whipped by blanket around at others, apparently declaring that they join me in my wild readiness. But naptime was the rule, and so everyone tried to make to me comply—the other kids were doing it just fine. A few weeks later, and after several blanket whips, everyone gave up. They gave me a new activity for the nap time-slot, and sent me to the daycare's office to label things. Everyone was happy, especially me, because when the other kids started rolling out their mats, I got to toss my hair back and say, "Oh, I've got to go to work."
The moral of this story is not to be an asshole to your fellow preschoolers—it is that some rules are not for everyone. Naptime exists within the schedule of four-year-olds because it's often a positive thing. It's supposed to prevent you from whipping your blanket into the faces of small children, because you are less riled up and you use that precious energy on things like macaroni jewelry and building hospitals out of wooden blocks. So it's cool that my teachers were like, "Hey, let's give this naptime thing a shot," but it's also cool that when it didn't work for me, they switched it up a bit.
The same thing exists within poetry and yoga (though I'm not a certified in yoga and I can't make any *official* claims that this true): it helps to learn the rules, but that doesn't mean you can't break them. I've never taken a class in poetry, but I like to study other poets and their work. I like to sit and think, "what made this such a dope poem?" In yoga, many of my teachers have instructed the traditional version of the pose, as well as some adjustments and substitutions depending on how your body reacts to that particular pose.
Once we understand the rules, the history, and the various techniques of those around us, we can start using them or breaking them. Through exposing ourselves to those rules, we're contributing to the great mental toolbox that is our creativity. Our brain is smart—it knows which tools will best communicate what we feel in our hearts. It all spills out eventually, much like my crayon box would have when someone forced me to take a nap.
I've tried to apply this over the past 16 days by looking at different poets, and practicing different styles of yoga. I'll admit, it's been hard to sit down and say "I'm going to look at Iyengar today" or "I'm going to study Southern Gothic Literature," especially when you're a GIRL JUST TRYING TO HAVE FUN! But when you're dedicating yourself to a challenge, it gives you the motivation to poke around and look at what's out there. The more (in my experience) that you learn, the more you want to learn. Excitement begets excitement. Words beget more words.
This was the challenge I gave myself today. Study some rules. Go back to the basics. Use these to fuel today's poem and practice.
If you'd like to do something similar, hold on to your hats, because I've got some links!
First, here is a link to Ashtanga Fundamentals.
And here is a link William Blake's "The Tyger," which is considered one of the greatest poems of all time. After that, you can read something totally different, and check out a poem from Rupi Kaur's Milk and Honey.
And below is a poem by E.E. Cummings, who is probably most well-known for his role as an avid rule-breaker.
[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
what rules do you chose to break?