I have a clear memory of six years old, sitting cross-legged on the floor in my classroom, cutting out the pieces to the acrostic poem I had written a few days before. There was a precision to my gluing, a desire to get the lines exactly right. I forgot about it for years, let the memory drift to the back corners of my brain. This poem, I suppose, is the first evidence I have of poetry in my life.
Here the the actual text from the poem I wrote to my mom in second grade:
Imagining is great!
Ladies are good.
Yarn is fun!
Object are great!
have a Marry day!
From there, my love of poetry progressed: cataloged in a Mother’s Day poem I wrote in fifth grade, typed up in Comic Sans, used the wrong your/you’re and seventh grade, walking through the concrete hallways reciting “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe from memory. I continued to dabble in poetry throughout high school, writing about this and that. In the margins of my calculus notes there are dashes of phrases, half-written poems that someday I’d get back to.
It’s important to study literature, because it gives a deeper insight to meanings. Analyzing English gives perspective of the surrounding world, a way to perceive emotions in a different way. In turn, poetry is an extension of this. It falls into the gap, between the universal and the personal. Meaning shifts from person to person, experience to experience, but there’s nearly always something someone can connect to.
For me, poetry is a way to express emotions. I let it center around the words I never say, the memories that come back, from time to time. Poetry is a creative way to capture an experience and I cannot stress how important I think that is.
So write. Write bad poetry, good poetry. Things that (don’t) rhyme, things with rhythm. Make up a story, make up an experience. Practice enjambment, practice and fail and succeed and know that it’s okay. Let yourself relive that memory when it comes back. Write it down so it’s raw and real and important, because it matters.
Here is an example of a poem I wrote more recently, as a way to show that my poetry has at least slightly improved since second grade:
School Picture Day, 2002
Six-year-old me didn’t yet have the world on her shoulders,
but she had an atlas brain. Curly red hair forming ringlets
around an unfreckled face. Back when tears were easy to spring
to the surface and I still had an underbite smile. Career option:
astronaut princess and Grandma taught me cross-stitch.
The Magic Tree House series, scraped knees, Girl Scout
uniform, and I didn’t know what headache meant. Tracing
the alphabet over and over on sunny days and I could see the purple
slide through the chain-link fence and windows.
I ate kiwis until my mouth puckered shut and I’d stretch my lips
into a grin, stand in line waiting to go into class with a heavy
metal song stuck in my head because Dad played his
music loud and would sing with the windows rolled down,
elbow resting against the door, hand hitting roof
edge with every guitar strum. Stand in line in a dark green
velvet dress tucking pistachio shells into its lace trim
because the future was undefined, for six-year-old me.