The Raw Parts
| People cope in all sorts of ways, whether it’s been a bad week, a bad year, or just one of those days where you need a good cry – binge eating Oreos in the bathtub, parking in the field where all your childhood memories were made at 3 a.m. and sobbing, working sixty hours a week just to occupy your mind – but the way that has suited me best has always been reading and writing poetry.
The beauty I find in poetry, perhaps unlike any other form of writing, is that it molds to me. I can read a poem and interpret it to relate to myself. I think the way a poem speaks to me depends on what I allow it to say.
|The first and only poetry reading I’ve ever attended, I read (despite my fear of public speaking) “Dialogue” by Adrienne Rich. I had read the poem a hundred times and every time, it stabbed me somewhere new. In the middle of reading it, I started crying right there. Everyone who reads this poem may analyze it differently, but I see a woman turning her wedding band on her finger, trying to explain her affair. “I do not know/who I was when I did those things” (line 10-11) is about where I turn into a puddle. The poem reminds me of my mother and all these years later, I still can’t read it without welling up.|
“I Go Back To May 1937” by Sharon Olds was tacked up on my wall for I couldn’t tell you how long. It left the wall when I left the house, I guess. That was another poem I came to love during my parent’s split. The speaker envisions being there when her parents met and if she should stop them from doing things “you cannot imagine you would ever do” (line 16) but then decides, “I want to live, I/take them up like the male and female/paper dolls and bang them together/at the hips like chips of flint as if to strike sparks from them, I say/Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it” (line 27-32). I am part of my parent’s marriage regardless of if I want to be in the middle of it, and I went through the back-and-forth of guilt that wasn’t mine to have.
I kept “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop in my purse until, ironically, I lost the poem all about losing (now it’s on my wall, where I can’t so easily misplace it). Bishop goes through all the things she has lost – keys, houses, cities, jewelry – but none of that was a disaster. But then: “Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love) I shan’t have lied./It’s evident/the art of losing’s not too hard to master/though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster” (lines 16-19). The parenthesis, I think, signify that she is forcing herself to admit that yes, this was disaster and no, she is not ok. Admitting defeat can hurt so badly. I loved this poem for everything I had lost – my first car that spun into a tree doing 55, the mother that didn’t show up to the hospital, the boyfriend I tried to lean on but was offered no support, the friends that stopped calling when they moved to college, the pieces of my childhood, the happiness I was accustomed to seeing in my father’s face – and how it seemed like disaster, well, it was a disaster.
In one of my favorite poems, “Tonight I Can Write” by Pablo Neruda, he writes, “Love is so short. Forgetting is so long” (line 28). I think I have always clung to the poems that dug into the deepest, untouched corners of my soul because I am afraid to forget. I don’t want forgetting to be long; I want it to be endless. I try to soak in every moment because I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to lose anything else.
I carry those poems inside me, on my wall, in my purse, because they help me touch the buried parts of myself that remind me to appreciate who I am and what I never want to be.
These poems also help me write. When I can tap into my emotions or somehow provoke them, I tend to write from a different place – a stronger, more thoughtful place.
“There is nothing to writing.
You just sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -Ernest Hemingway
What poems do you carry around? What poems make you feel something? How do they benefit you? Tell me in the comments section what inspires you to write and how you connect to poetry. I would love to hear your stories because I really think everyone has a unique experience with poetry.
For me, reading and writing poetry is a process of ripping my guts out and then neatly putting them back in. Somewhere in between, I heal.
And I highly recommend it.
Spring 2015 BPP Intern