Poetry has never been my favorite. It was something archaic you had to read at school. If it was presented as “Poetry,” I never particularly enjoyed it. I’ve always tried to read more poetry, but it was an effort. Though I love stories, I somehow couldn’t connect to the story in the poems I read.
But it has recently become clear to me that I’ve spent most of my life thinking in poetry.
Those conversations I imagined the trees were having as I passed through the woods on the way home from school … poetry
The lists I make in my head waiting for the light to change, the tea kettle to boil, the train to come … poetry
The thankful and kind words I have for my friends but don’t speak or share … poetry
Sometimes the words did slip out, like the chants and rhymes I fed my babies’ need to hear words.
But I never thought of any of it as poetry.
It took me a while to figure all this out and it has been challenging to try to articulate it. Fortunately, when I stopped by my public library in Arlington last week, the poet was IN.
The literary help I needed was right in front of me — in the form of a noted local poet.
As part of National Poetry Month, the Arlington Public Library, Arlington Arts, and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization was posting poets throughout Arlington. Poets were on hand at libraries and the farmers market to write poems on demand.
My poet, Slli’m Williams , somehow knew to ask me about my feelings about poetry. I thought this was interesting because if I was a poet at a poetry writing booth, I would have assumed that anyone stopping by the booth probably liked poetry. Was my predicament with poetry written all over my face?
I told Slli’m about my indifference to what I considered “Poetry” and how I thought of poetry as this rigid thing.
I think many people get poetry handed to them as a precious finished product and never know that they too are poets.
But I didn’t feel that way with the poem Slii’m handed to me. I felt freed — like I’d gone outside on a beautiful day without any obligations or direction.
I hadn’t understood that poetry is freedom. That’s why it didn’t occur to me that I’d been thinking in poetry. There are no hard rules. There is no form to fear. Poetry lets you do what you want to do, connect where you wish to connect, and say what you want to say to yourself or to the world.
Maybe some would call poetry something other than freedom. But maybe you don’t have to call it anything. It is part of your thoughts, part of your story. Go ahead and share. It is freeing.
Now that I see how poetry is connected to my own story, I’ve found I can connect to poetry! Here’s some poetry I am enjoying right now:
- Are You an Echo? The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by Misuzu Kaneko; illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri; Text and translation by Sally Ito, David Jacobson, and Michiko Tsuboi
- Keep a Pocket in Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies written and selected by J. Patrick Lewis; illustrated by Johanna Wright
- Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures , photographs by Joel Satore; words by Kwame Alexander