|Darien walked through the Catacombs, muttering to himself with a pen and notepad in his hands.
"Oh, the Miamice...they were never very nice...taking my Neggs...no matter how much I begged..." The Blumaroo groaned and shook his head, striking out a line on the notepad page. "That sounds terrible! More like something for Bad Poetry Day!"
He paused in front of the doorway to the Poetry Gallery and stared longingly at it.
"Poetry Gallery, big and great...just you wait, just you wait...I'll write a poem so great..." Darien shook his head and sat down beside the entrance, setting his pen and notepad aside to bury his face into his hands. "It's no use! I'll never write a great poem like Alstaf Poogle!"
"Don't give up, my good lad, and don't be sad! Chin up and stand, for I shall lend you a hand!"
Darien looked up at the sound of a confident baritone voice and gasped when he saw who had spoken those verses.
Date: Jan 25th
"The very one and the same, the one of great fame!" a laugh sounded, the rich voice echoing throughout the Catacombs.
Darien couldn't believe it — Alstaf Poogle. A poet of no small renown, Darien had his poetry — his posters! And he was standing right there! In front of him! Before he could get to his feet, Alstaf stepped over and took a seat next to him. Standing, sitting — a poet's words sometimes don't mean what one might think.
"I — uh, wow —"
"Don't fear or fret for we are well met, here in this place of glorious heart. The trouble on your face is one I can well place, though no one speaks of how words can smart."
"Do ... do you always speak in verse?" Should he be speaking in verse? What rhymes with verse? Darien blinks — wait, did he really just ask that to Alstaf Poogle?
The poet himself merely laughs, a warm note that makes Darien smile too. Poets often have a reputation of being too far away to approach, their heads lost in the clouds. Alstaf had a kind look on his face, much kinder than the picture on the back of his ... numerous volumes of poetry. Darien had them all. Alstaf points to the notepad left there at Darien's side. The yellow cover slightly bent and worn from how often Darien flips through it. There's a flush of embarrassment as he picks it up and grips it tight in his hands.
Alstaf tilts his head slightly. "How now, what is this?" Darien knew it — that didn't rhyme.
"They're not that good. I don't think you ... should?"
Alstaf laughs again and Darien can't help the shy smile. He made him laugh! Alstaf Poogle! "A poet after my title. Very well, we'll sit a while. Ah — after a while, talking in verse gets a little tiring. It's fun at parties. Not that great at afterparties. What's your name, young poet?"
"And why do you want to write poetry, Darien?"
Date: Jan 26th
Darien stopped to ponder this for a moment. Why did he want to write poetry?
He knew why he wanted to get into the Poetry Gallery itself: he wanted to make his family proud. Maybe then he would live up to his sister's achievements with her entries in the Art Gallery, or his brother's skill at winning in the Games Room. But what had drawn him to poetry specifically? After all, he didn't seem to be much good at it.
Alstaf Poogle waited patiently, seeming to know the struggle in Darien's mind. After a long pause, the Poogle stroked his goatee thoughtfully. "Do you want to know why I became a poet?" Alstaf volunteered. "When I was a young Neopet in school, I was very shy. I could hardly speak to my classmates or teacher without stuttering! Then we had a lesson on poetry. I found poetry to be the outlet I needed to be able to express myself. When performing poetry, I could connect with my audience in a way that I had never been able to before. Gradually, this helped me overcome my shyness, and I decided to help guide other young Neopets in expressing themselves as well. I knew what a difference it can make in someone's life. So, think carefully, Darien. What about poetry speaks to you?"
The Blumaroo was awed that the great poet had shared his childhood struggles with him and could only nod. As he was looking for an answer, a sudden memory crept into his mind...
He was very young, sitting in his Grandmother's lap as she gazed over a spring field. Her sweet voice reached out to him, soothing him after he had fallen and scraped his knee.
"Don't cry little Darien. Come now, look outside at the lovely spring! Let's see if we can find a poem for you...
The flowers rejoice and are glad,
If rain falls, there's no need to be sad.
The rain will help them grow,
And every creature will know
The beauty that spring brings;
Spring brings growth to all things!"
He had smiled, clapping in delight and forgetting his hurt knew. Darien remembered the feeling of happiness he had whenever he had been near his Grandmother.
As the memory faded, Darien finally responded. "Poetry... reminds me of my Grandmother. I was so happy whenever she would come up with a poem for me. I want to be able to make others happy like that! But I'm nowhere near as good as she was. How can I get better?"
Date: Jan 27th
...Alstaf Poogle smiled at Darien explaining his childhood love of poetry. "You already have a promising place to start," the Poogle poet explained gently, "which is more than most people who just want the fame that comes from being showcased in the Gallery can claim. The true beauty of poetry, you see, comes from the heart."
Subconsciously, Darien found himself holding a paw over his own chest, feeling his heart thud as it tightened with nostalgic memories of a time long passed. Alstaf was right. He'd never get anywhere if all he wanted was to show up his siblings. He had to do this for himself.
"All this time I've been stressing over complex rhymes and meters in my head," Darien realized. "When I should have been listening to my heart instead."
His eyes brightened as he knew exactly what he would write his poem about. The Blumaroo flipped open his notebook to a fresh page and grabbed his pen. "Get ready Alstaf, because I'm going to write the best poem you've ever read!"
How will this story end?
Date: Jan 28th
It had been a week since Darien had met Alstaf. A week of thinking and creating, but finally, his poem was complete. He had sent a weewoo with a letter to Alstaf telling him to meet him under the Money Tree. He invited his whole family too, including his Mom, Dad and siblings. He was nervous to share his work, but he had also never been more excited.
An hour later he arrived under the Money Tree, and once he had greeted everyone hello, he stood proud under the shade of the tree, his poem written on parchment in his hand, and began speaking.
"Listen to my words for they contain heart,
My sister is the one good at art,
The games room is where my brother is skilled,
While I have been looking to be fulfilled,
All around I sought inspiration,
When all I needed was internal contemplation,
Mentors help us find our way,
Let us think of what to say,
But the message must always be our own,
Mine is a truth I have always known,
The love of those around us makes us strong,
A family, a home, where I always belong."
Darien looked up from his paper to applause. While he was speaking a crowd of Neopets had gathered, clapping loudly. Darien saw his family, smiling at him with tears of pride welling in their eyes. Alstaf gave him a bow of recognition, fluttering the quill in his hand as he did.
This was the greatest day of Darien's life, and he had poetry and the love of those around him to thank for it.
Date: Jan 29th