A little over a week ago, today's spotlighted poet, Max Stossel, followed me on Instagram. As most do, I look at people's accounts when they first follow me to see what they're about. The more I looked into Max's content, the more I realized he's an incredible poet and storyteller.
Max's work goes viral consistently, has spanned across 14 languages, has won two Webby Awards, multiple film festivals, and influenced the way digital media organizations tell the stories of mass murder in the news.
In an unexpected Poet Spotlight conversation made possible by an Instagram direct message, I spoke with Max about the power of poetry in a world where everyone is vying for attention.
Who is Max Stossel?
I'm a poet and filmmaker... but, on a larger scale, I'm constantly trying to figure out the answer to that question.
How did you get started writing poetry?
A spoken word poet, In-Q, performed in a friend of mine's living room. I remembered a lot of the specific lines and, on the way home, I started writing. The first two lines happened to rhyme and I thought, "ok I can do this!" and wrote my first poem.
Where are you currently in your writing journey?
I feel like my best work has almost happened through me. I'll feel a moment of inspiration and then do my best to write like a madman to get the words down on the page. I'm trying to get to a place where I'm more disciplined at showing up to the page to give that inspiration the opportunity to happen more often vs. feeling creatively out of control.
We live in the attention economy. The average attention span is about a second longer than that of a goldfish. I was drawn to poetry because rhyme and rhythm helps us listen in ways we wouldn't ordinarily.
Why do you see words as powerful?
I actually think words are a terrible form of communication. Trying to communicate something that happens, to feelings and thoughts and then into words – it's two degrees removed from what's actually happening. But unfortunately we rely on them.
How does poetry intersect with your filmmaking and storytelling you're doing for different brands?
I'm a poet at heart. I get hired to write custom pieces for brands and then we adapt those pieces into videos to help tell the stories of why they do what they do in an innovative way.
What would you say to someone who's struggling with embracing their creative identity?
I'd ask them, "why?" and say I didn't think I was a poet until I started writing.
What is the story you're seeking to tell in your poetry?
Each poem is seeking to tell a different story, but I often find myself writing different versions of "be here now."
What are you consuming right now that you love?
An acai bowl!
Car Window Poetry is a global poetry movement focused on people gathering their friends, writing encouraging poems, and anonymously sharing them on car windows. What words of encouragement would you like to speak into someone's life today?
People matter, now matters, love matters... everything else is mostly make believe.