Have You Found What You’re Looking For?

Photo courtesy of elitetrack.com

Photo courtesy of elitetrack.com

A while back, I read this post over at Radio Silencer. It’s so funny what people look up…and how it all can somehow lead to your blog.

When I look at the search terms now, I mostly see “unknown search terms.” Boring! So this post is dedicated to the good ‘ole days when I could see what hilarity led people to my blog:

  • Presidential badassery – …I…what? I mean, it seems like two words that don’t necessarily go together, unless you are referring to Ronald Regan riding a velociraptor. Then that all makes sense.
  • Distomance – A fun word that combines dystopia and romance. And I did write about Divergent, so yeah, this one makes sense.
  • Joe Weil poems – Another that’s reasonable. I have read a poem by Joe Weil on this blog.
  • комиксы predator – I can’t even. A Russian predator? As in, Predator wearing a fuzzy black hat and kicking out his feet to folk tunes? Now that I can get behind.
  • My 2014 new year – Another one that makes sense. My resolutions posts usually get good traffic.
  • Wesley Mcnair – *shoulder shrug*
  • Barefoot business – Ah yes, always be businessing…barefoot, if possible.
  • Dr Who and Jesus – Did I write a post comparing Jesus to Doctor Who (the tenth to be exact)? Yes, I did. You’re welcome.
  • How tall is Rachel Frederickson – I weighed in (see what I did there?) on this controversy because people bashed her because she was thin. I know that feels. Apparently many other people wanted opinions on this as well.
  • Dear Sister AK Press – I end on one I’m the most proud of because it was a huge step for me in a lot of ways not only to send my work to the Dear Sister anthology, but also to be published alongside some great artists.

 

What are some odd search terms that have led to your blog? Or what are random search terms you’ve entered?

Poetry Still Has Teeth

During my first day in the Drew MFA program in 2009, students gathered to hear the faculty talk about a current favorite poem of theirs.  I’ll never forget when Alicia Ostriker, my first mentor, read Jane Mead’s poem “Concerning that Prayer I Cannot Make.”  At the time, I was fresh out of college, living with my mother whose mental illness was, unfortunately, getting the best of her, and wondering how and why my relationship with God was changing…and frightened by it all.

That first stanza unexpectedly hit me, as Florence + the Machine would say, like a train on a track:

Jesus, I am cruelly lonely
and I do not know what I have done
nor do I suspect that you will answer me.

Those three lines felt like I had written them. I was disillusioned with silence from God, yet I desperately wanted to love Him, but didn’t quite know what that looked like anymore.  I was rapidly being asked to grow up in many ways by taking care of my mother and shouldering a full-time job while going back to school. I was also the youngest in the MFA program at the time and felt completely inadequate as a writer. And yet I felt I had to swallow all of my insecurities and carry on like a good little soldier.  I certainly did not think of acknowledging my loneliness, anger, and questions.

This poem changed that.  It showed me that it was ok to question and be bold about it.  To this day, I still think of the last line of that Jane Mead poem where, after addressing Jesus, the poet addresses nature and all that is around her, saying, “Listen, I am holy.”

That last line broke me open.  Though permission is not required to write or to feel or to question, I needed it.  I needed that gateway to open so that I could remember my worth as a person.  I later wrote to my mentor that it was in that poem that I saw pieces of the writer I wanted to become.  I realize now that my connection to the piece was deeper than that.  I saw pieces of the woman I wanted to become–thoughtful, observant, full of questions, and, when need be, brazen. Four years later, these are all qualities I now possess.

Last week, a writer at the Washington Post posted an article asserting that poetry is dead. The main question posed in this article is “Can a poem still change anything?”  Here, in part, is the writer’s answer:

I think the medium might not be loud enough any longer. There are about six people who buy new poetry, but they are not feeling very well. I bumped very lightly into one of them while walking down the sidewalk, and for a while I was terrified that I would have to write to eleven MFA programs explaining why everyone was going to have to apply for grants that year. The last time I stumbled upon a poetry reading, the attendees were almost without exception students of the poet who were there in the hopes of extra credit. One of the poems, if memory serves, consisted of a list of names of Supreme Court justices. I am not saying that it was a bad poem. It was a good poem, within the constraints of what poetry means now. But I think what we mean by poetry is a limp and fangless thing.

This response to poetry both saddened and angered me.  I was angered that someone would flippantly say that a medium I love so much is “a limp and fangless thing.”  And I was saddened that someone could misunderstand such a powerful literary genre so completely. To only look at the numbers is to miss the point.  The author’s perspective is one I would expect from someone who has not been affected by poetry.

And I know that not everyone will be.  Poetry is not for everyone. But to make such a sweeping statement about a genre one is not familiar with is ill-informed.  I hoped that the writer would at least include some tidbits about speaking with lovers of poetry, but she did not.

Poet Daniel Nathan Terry wrote a response to the Washington Post article as well (and after reading it, I wondered if I should enter the conversation because his response is so articulate).  I do not have a story that brings together politics, love, and words so eloquently as he does. But, as seen earlier in this piece, I do have a story of how poetry changed me.  And I’m not the only one.

The fact that poets may not have the most followers on Twitter or that they don’t sell out stadiums does not mean the genre is dead.  Poetry may not make headlines, but I have been in small New York bars and witnessed the audience sigh as one when a poem knocked the breath out of their lungs.  I have seen a poet cry when reading her own poem because the words brought back the memory so vividly.  I have sat at countless tables in cafeterias, cafes, and living rooms talking about the power of the exact right word.  And every one of those people has a story about a line of poetry that sticks with them to this day because it’s power knocked something loose in their souls.  It was that knocking that spurred them to action.

Poetry still has teeth.

And in that sense, yes, I think poetry can change a hell of a lot.  Indeed, that may be the only way anything has ever been changed in a lasting manner–one person, one adversity at a time.

Something Like Hope: Thoughts on Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco reads his poem at the 57th Pres...

Richard Blanco reads his poem at the 57th Presidential Inauguration, January 21, 2013 (Photo credit: Photo Phiend)

I have never been glued to the coverage of a presidential inauguration before, but yesterday, as poet Richard Blanco read his poem “One Today,” I was entranced by my computer screen (my mouth may have been hanging open slightly).  And after reading the poem and watching the footage again, I am just as enrapt.

You know how many people have this one moment that inspired them to pursue a certain life path or someone they really look up to?  Typically, this happens as a child.  I really think that moment took place yesterday for me.

As can be seen in some of my past posts, I have quite a few ambitions.  But something felt different in me as I watched Richard Blanco read.  As the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, his reading was ground-breaking.  What better person to form a poem when the nation needs unity more than ever?

On a personal level, as a Latina myself, I think the reason his reading struck me was because it was the first time I really felt as if there are no limits to what I can accomplish.  I can be published, go to the moon, teach, travel, read in front of a national audience, and, most importantly, have my art taken seriously.

Blanco’s poem was expansive and inspiring.  It had nods to national tragedy and national scenery, yet it also got very specific with it’s mention of “pencil-yellow school buses” and fruit “arrayed like rainbows/begging our praise.”  I especially liked the ending:

“…all of us —
facing the stars
hope — a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it — together”

What I love about these lines, and the poem in general, is that it focuses on the unity of this country despite our differences or, perhaps, because of them.  And isn’t that the point, not just of inauguration day, but also of this nation?

Maybe I’m being dewey-eyed and cheesy, but the inaugural poem felt a lot like truth in its remembrance of where this nation came from.  It felt a lot like hope.