An Argument for Poetry

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.

The Last (Poetry) Hurrah at a Very Hipster Coffee Shop

I blinked. The lights, compared to the rest of the dimly lit café, were blinding. The microphone hovered a good seven-eight-maybe-nine inches above my head. I tugged it down, and it fell off the stand.

“Oh boy,” I said, into the microphone. My voice echoed throughout the café. The laughter, though, was encouraging and I smiled.

“Hello,” I said, “I’m Rachel, and this poem is called ‘the butterfly effect’.”

If you have been following along with my life, or if you have read my bio at the bottom of this page, you may be wondering about now just what a politics major and a French minor is doing at a poetry reading. The answer: I wanted to. I dabble in poetry and creative writing, and I have been taking advantage of the classes offered at the school. The reading in question was the capstone, the last hurrah, etc. of my introduction to poetry class. After weeks of poem-writing and poem-reading and poem-teaching, we all piled into cars and drove to B Sharp Coffee House, in downtown Tacoma.

What followed next is hard to explain. I have issues with things like “reading poems dramatically” and “bearing my heart and soul to anyone, let alone a bunch of classmates and my professor and some servers.” My hands were literally shaking for most of the evening.

But as I listened to my classmates read poems entitled “Good Morning!” and “Fireworks” and “Hypnagogic” and, my personal favorite, “Is This What Growing Up Feels Like?”—which incidentally made me be like “I feel that” on every line—something my professor said returned to haunt me. He said that our class had been one of the most enthusiastic and hard-working classes he had had the privilege of teaching.

He also said "I'm in a silly mood tonight" and "Stop laughing at my grandmother" tonight.

He also said “I’m in a silly mood tonight” and “Stop laughing at my grandmother” while reading his own poetry.

I heard and saw that enthusiasm and work in each poem. There is something incredibly amazing that happens when words work together—and I half-closed my eyes and listened.

By the time it was my turn, I had lost track of the order of the evening. I munched on pizza/flatbread Greek-inspired food and stared blankly at a doppio, which, despite sounding like a normal double shot of espresso, is a coffee that really should come with an instruction manual.

“Oh,” I said, “It’s my turn.”

I read two poems. One, “the butterfly effect,” I will reprint in its entirety here. It’s because I love you (and also because my other poem, “Let Me Tell You What I Know of Love,” is much much longer).

the butterfly effect

wings like an egg’s yolk

tremble, and under the rain,

your skin melts.

i read once that when

you stroke the wing

of a butterfly,

the delicate crescents of

your fingers shivering,

it cannot fly again. i lean

close to your silver warmth.

my eyelashes brush

against your cheek, and i

wonder if this kiss,

like the rain clouds drowning

the sun, will ruin you.

[pause for raucous applause and/or snaps]

When I got back to my seat, I was smiling. Flushed with success. Mostly, I was proud of myself. I had done something that I had never done before, something that scared me, and I had succeeded.