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Here’s the deal: I was walking to class one day in the spring of 2014 while reading The New Yorker on my phone (yeah, I was that pretentious in high school), and I happened across its latest poetry offering. Now, I’d always been a fan of the poetry classics we’d read in class, but I’d had minimal exposure to anything too contemporary. So, I read this avant-garde work and holy shit my mind just explodes! It’s awful (or maybe I just failed to truly understand it, but my AP-Language-and-Composition-educated mind would never believe that). Anyways, I could not relate to it whatsoever. I could barely read it, using words I didn’t understand and allusions I failed to follow. That’s when the light bulb flashed: I can write better poetry than this.
From there I recruited my go-to-collaborator, Nick, and we were off, spending the next four months pounding out poem after poem and sharing them with one another in Google Drive. From the beginning we had a book of poetry in mind, and by the end of the summer of 2014, had amassed an arsenal of about eighty poems. Following, we painstakingly went through each one dozens of time and assembled them in a decent order, beginning the materialization of Norman. We ended up using only about half of our poems, arranging them in such a way as to tell an unadulterated story of our youth, in all of its existential crises, relationship revelations, and a healthy dose of teenage angst. In writing these poems, I realized that I was wrong in my original assessment of The New Yorker’s poem (and surely a little pretentious). The truth is that there are many different ways of expressing yourself in verse, and my favorite way of explaining Norman is as follows:
Classical music is great. Anyone who’s felt the chill that strikes down your back as orchestra hall is haunted by Beethoven’s Opus 110 (or anyone with a base level understanding of music) can attest to its transformative powers. Music folklore is filled with iconic classical musicians–Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. However, the simple truth of the matter is that, as beautiful as classical music may be, as you’re navigating the tumultuous days of teenage life, would you rather be jamming out to Bach or The Beatles? Call me unsophisticated, but give me some John, Paul, George, and Ringo. In this way, Norman and the Bird is meant to be like “pop” music–simple, easy to digest, and relatable to every other kid who might otherwise think poetry is reserved for the academically elite.
In September of 2014, Nick and I released Norman on iBooks and Kindle. It’s free on iBooks (so get it there if you can) and costs a buck on Kindle (because Amazon doesn’t allow a “free” option). Nick and I didn’t do much to promote it, but as of when I’m writing this, it’s gotten about 300 downloads. Now that may not seem like a ton, but let me tell you, I’m damn proud of it. I can’t tell you all of the wonderful words we got after its release from people in our community who read it and connected with our work. If this book managed to get even a single person to discover poetry’s ability to tear open a reader’s emotions, revealing to them things that they’ve always felt but never consciously thought, then good lord was it worth it.
In late 2015, I also put Norman up for purchase on Lulu. People can now order a physical copy of the book (which is pretty awesome) for under $7 (that includes shipping and everything!). Nick and I make absolutely no money off of this, so if you order a copy, no worries we’re not lining our pockets or anything. All we want is for you to give our work a chance.
So moral of the story: read our book.