Falling in Love With Poetry
Evelyn Dekker is one of TNQ's treasured editors and Michaela Steven is one of her former students.
“And I was at that age… Poetry arrived
in search of me.”
Pablo Neruda defines the moment perfectly, where poetry sweeps into your soul. I was in the corner of a Grade 12 Writer’s Craft class when it happened, sudden and swift. I was its feeble prey with my stubborn mind set against all things poetic.
I was a prose writer, poised at arguing my points in essays, or setting a scene in a short story and watching it unfold. Furthermore, I had never had the patience for poetry. To me, poetry was cryptic; poets endorsed trickery to seem superior to the lowly, logical person. My analyses or poetry only ever scratched at the surface of the “deeper meaning” that I was too frustrated to understand. Why not just say what you want to say? I’d shout in my mind to those who are “poets.” I considered myself a clear communicator. I prefer to know rather than to guess. I want clarification. I want meaning to be clear. This mindset is present in all aspects of my life, not just writing, and it is what made poetry grate at my bones. I had determined that I would simply tolerate the unit in the course; nothing more.
Not to be misunderstood, I clearly vocalized my distaste for the form. It just didn’t click for me, as it doesn’t for many students. My view was that writing shouldn’t beat around the bush, writers should not break up sentences for no reason whatsoever, and ramble on about unimportant details. Sounds about right for a teenager, doesn’t it? Being stubborn to the point of closed-mindedness, and watching learning opportunities fall from sky and refusing to reach out to them. Well, that was my mindset toward poetry. It was just a puzzle that I couldn’t solve.
But I had been really enjoying the course thus far, and after much consideration, I decided that I shouldn’t let my feelings for poetry get in the way of enjoying the material. With my feet firmly planted and my eyes shut, I ventured with caution into the dark abyss that is poetry, and what I found surprised me:
“my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,”
It happened almost overnight and without my complete consent, but poetry grew on me. Or, Robert Frost, Alison Pick, and William Carlos Williams tugged at a place behind my heart. I cannot decide, but what I do know is that I lost myself to poetry and found it much more than enjoyable than I ever could have imagined. It was invigorating. I practically ran to class, beamed during the class period, and begin writing everywhere that I went. If that is what being in love feels like, then how could anyone ever be ready for the intrusion, the shaking of my entire world view. Everything I thought that I knew about poetry, about writing, about art was decimated the further I journeyed into the form. Poets went from crafty, cryptic romantics to revealers of truth; and, I longed to be as keen with observation and precise with my words. That place behind my heart began to fill with thoughts and feelings that I couldn’t name, and that only poetry released. I surprised myself every time my pen stroked paper.
Poetry does not simply represent life with a coat of sugar: it is life untainted, in its purest state. Poets are observers of the world around, and nothing is lost to their eye. Moreover, poets are the painters of beautiful landscapes and stunning portraits. The cryptic takes away light, leaving the reader sightless and scrambling for answers. Poetry illuminates the average scene, and raises it into the realm of the extraordinary. As I began to think poetically, poetry became the lens from which I viewed the world around me. With poetry my writing grew into something larger, yet smaller, than I could have ever imagined. I could encompass a whole scene and an emotional spectrum. With poetry, my writing retained its intimacy and closeness, more akin to a diary entry, an exposure of the heart.
This fact still amazes me: I didn’t let poetry in, it dug its way in. Now that it is a part of me, it has its roots firmly planted. Poetry has become a type of therapy for me, purging me of feelings I don’t even know that I have. I write about what I could never before acknowledge in myself: romance, tenderness, the profundity of life. Some days, reading a piece back to myself, I stare at the page, gape at the words in front of my eyes. This form has taken my writing to a place that I love, in a form that now seems so logical and like a reflex to write in. “Why wouldn’t I break that sentence into lines?” is what I find myself saying. It looks and sounds better that way. Needless to say…
“I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.”
Poetry is the small child grasping my hand. I am running with her, and she is taking me to unchartered lands. And I couldn’t be happier.
Michaela Steven is a recent grad of St. David Catholic Secondary School where she spent her grade 12 year writing poetry and winning poetry contests, among other things, like attending class and being involved in various extra-curricular activities. Michaela is this year's valedictorian (October 4) and is currently attending Queen's University.