1) Why do you want to join the Poetry Project?
Well, as co-creator of the Poetry Project, I feel as though I should probably participate! In all seriousness, I adore poetry. I read it, I sometimes write it. It’s an important part of my life. I want to share that with you and maybe inspire you to make poetry an important part of your life, if it is not already. If you are already an avid poetry reader, then I want to hear about your favorite poets and poems. I want to “demystify” poetry. Talking about poetry can be academic in nature, but it can also be a purely emotional experience. Like most things, there are different types of poems. For me, finding a poem that makes you feel something intense is a something special, like finding your new favorite novel, which is an emotion I’m sure we all understand.
2) Do you have a favourite poet?
I have many favorite poets: Yusef Komunyakaa, Natasha Trethewey, Dereck Walcott, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Naomi Shihab Nye, Edna St. Vincent Millay. It’s a never-ending, always-changing list.
3) Hopefully this will go longer than a year. Do you have any suggestions for monthly themes?
Next year, I’d like to do themes based on specific time periods, cultures, and movements.
4) What are your experiences with poetry in the past? Have they been positive or negative?
For me, it was love-at-first-read when it came to not only reading poetry, but studying it and writing it too. My freshman year of high school we had a very involved poetry unit that lasted for a good portion of the year. It was then that I truly fell in love with poetry, especially with poems like “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines” by Pablo Neruda and “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell.
5) Tell us about a poem or poet that has had a profound effect on you. If you can’t think of a poem, how about a song? Or a line from a story?
From “Last August Hours Before the Year 2000” by Naomi Shihab Nye:
I want to know the root goes deep
on all that came before,
you could lay a soaker hose across
your whole life and know
there was something
under layers of packed summer earth
and dry blown grass
There is something about these lines of poetry that mean so much to me. Part of it, on a very surface level, is the fact that I read this poem shortly after moving to New York and suddenly having no land that I could call my own, just what essentially amounts to three tiny rooms. Though I was never much of a gardener or an “outdoorsy” type before moving, I found myself missing that connection to earth, grass, and land profoundly. There is also the idea of roots and building on all that has come before you, from your family, but also yourself and what who you are and were. We are constantly growing, taking what we know and adding what we learn. I want to know that there was something in my life that mattered, even if it matters in a small way, even if what grows from it is a tiny thing. When I read these few lines, I realized that they expressed something that I had been trying to say. Those are my favorite kinds of poems.
6) What frustrates you about poetry or the way we talk about poetry?
Poetry is often presented as an incredibly difficult thing to understand. This baffles me, especially when most of us spend a lot of time listening to poetry. Songs are another type of poem, ones with music attached, yes, but poetry nonetheless. Poetry is exactly like any other medium: there are difficult poems, there are poems for children, there are funny poems, there are poems to be studied, and there are poems read solely for pleasure. I wish we could talk about poetry in a way that reflected that.
7) Tell us something about yourself that has nothing to do with poetry!
Do you ever get new Facebook friends and then look at your pictures to see what they might possibly think of you based on your photos? I just did that and got lost on a Facebook photo journey looking at pictures from my Freshman year of college. I found this gem, and I am only sharing it with you because you have agreed to join Kelly and I on this Poetry Project:
You see, I grew up in a place without a lot of snow. So when we had our first big snow (and really last big snow until after I graduated) that winter, we all went sledding. Everyone else got cafeteria trays. I decided to sled down the hill using this broken rocking floor-chair I had. It was pretty amazing. If by amazing I mean it didn’t really work most of the time, unless I was on an icy road, then yes. A lot of this happened:
I can see all of you laughing now at our “big snow” where you can still see blades of grass sticking out. Don’t worry, the next time we got snow, it looked like this: