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My Relationship with Poetry

Updated: Apr 15

My passion for reading and writing developed out of circumstances, as many things do. Feeling unsafe at home, I sought solace in school and the library, places that provided me with comfort and a sense of belonging. While I can't recall exactly how I discovered poetry, I distinctly remember the moment I decided to give it a try. It was for a writing contest in first grade, where the winning poem would be featured in a student anthology. Although I can't recall the theme, I chose water as the symbol of life. I crafted various poems celebrating the beauty of water and included my original piece in the collection. I won the competition and my first-grade literary teacher read my poem in front of the class.

From there, I shifted to writing stories, literary analyses, and essays. My interest in poetry resurfaced during high school upon discovering the website Prose, where I eagerly shared my creations with the community. Witnessing others appreciate my writing was truly inspiring. The majority of my poems were inspired by childlike curiosity and my discovery of fundamental poetic elements that, in a child's perspective, formed a poem: rhyme, similes (as I was not yet comfortable with metaphors), personification, and uncommon vocabulary.

My relationship with poetry was a slow burn. I enjoyed poetry because it challenged me to write a story that could be contained in a few lines, which could only achieved through careful planning, but eventually, I began to read poetry and my understanding of it changed. Among the poets who hold a special significance for me and whose works I revisit when facing creative blocks are Salma Deera, William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, Charles Baudelaire, and Derek Walcott. While there may be more, these are the names that stand out to me.

Poetry, as I now understand it, is emotion sprawled onto a page as best as it can be sprawled anywhere. Poems are to be understood with the human experience before literary analysis. Poetry is a concentrated ball of mass on the verge of explosion. It can be soft and it can be violent. It can feel like home or it can feel like a precipice.

In my journey with poetry, my struggle lies in my passion for writing it while battling self-doubt. Some poems captivate instantly as they are read aloud. I often reflect on the impactful poems heard at open mics and poetry slams that evoke emotions with every line, narrate a story, and create a tangible experience. While I occasionally write similar poems, my true joy lies in verses that provoke contemplation, encourage community-building, celebrate the beauty of nature and the enigmas of human existence, and evoke a sense of lighthearted reverence. The uncertainty stems from questioning my purpose. What is my calling, and how can I remain dedicated to this art form and the way I create my pieces while reaching out to a wider audience? (A deeper exploration of this will be in an upcoming post!)

Before delving into poetry books, I came across Salma Deera on Tumblr during a time when everyone was using the platform. I read one of her poems that ignited a spark within me and that fire has remained ever since. The poem, though brief and straightforward, illuminated for me, in the flicker of candlelight, how emotions can occupy empty spaces within us and all be felt simultaneously, sometimes dangerously.

I have managed to secure digital copies of her books, Letters from Medea and May All Your Wounds Be Mortal, but it seems to me that the lessons from her grandmother are posted on Tumblr exclusively. I am prepared for a deep dive into this part of my past and may even start a new Tumblr page dedicated to The Antsy Verse.

"Lesson from my Grandmother #4" suggests that love, a gentle emotion, can also be intense, has expanded my perception of linearity. It has encouraged me to embrace complexity and question the sincerity of my actions when I claim to love something.

Now that I understand that objects or forms have various layers, whether physical or abstract; it is fitting to reference Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself," specifically its fifty-first section.

If there is anything that I have taken from this poem, it is this: individuality and identity are a call for celebration, and yet, as we are human beings— not separate from our environment which includes each other— there is a call for celebration in our intra-action with the world. Intra-action is a concept introduced by Karen Barad which states that agency and therefore, our individual evolvement, can only exist through our relationship with others. I am smitten with the idea of being large and a part of something so huge.

From here then, now that I understand multiplicity and non-linear as concepts, I can enjoy poetry that speaks to me through shared loves. William Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” is such a poem. I include the first stanza below, where Wordsworth graces the reader with an idyllic picture experienced from his childhood.

Green is my favorite color. For a while, I thought it was blue because blue is the color of the ocean and the sky, deep and penetrating. I thought it was pink because pink is the color of cherry blossoms and warmth, feminine in energy. Then, I thought it was yellow for the sun and its brightness, the way yellow can make you hyperaware of your surroundings. Now, my favorite colors are all the colors. I think about the color green most often though.

Ah! What lines! The imagery of unripe fruit mingling with tree canopies and lush greenery evokes a sense of unity, reminding us of our shared origins before evolution took its course. The seamless blending of the landscape into the sky, and our integration into this natural canvas, fills me with excitement. Reflecting on this experience, the poem suggests that revisiting such landscapes after years may feel dreamlike, yet familiar. The narrator anticipates personal growth and change, just as Tintern Abbey evolves, yet they both find solace in returning to this serene haven with eyes closed. I often find myself revisiting familiar places, finding solace in the beauty of mountaintops.

The allure of poetry evokes mixed emotions such as the debates on its privileged access and its healing properties as a cathartic experience. Reading a piece that resonates with my body, heartbeat, breath, and emotions leaves me feeling both vulnerable and optimistic. Creating writing that evokes similar emotions in me and others is something that I strive to do. Poetry continues to impact me deeply and gives me a romantic lens through which I perceive the world. I can really go on forever!

With each poem I read and each poetic experience (these experiences are everywhere — conversations, in the quiet, waking up or falling asleep, cooking, etc), I have more to write. I have more responses, more questions, more stories I must tell.


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