Poetry is a mirror

life is meant to be experienced before it can be understood

Until my 30’s, I thought reading poetry was like unraveling mathematical proofs: use a series of facts to solve for an unknown. Find the measure of x, use the chain rule to determine Zt & Zp. Math has rules, and so, I thought, did poetry (and life). I felt a poem was something to be solved, that the pieces were supposed to click together at its close. “Everything in its right place” on repeat. Kid A.

How could I get through a creative writing program if I couldn’t write a poem that wasn’t hellbent on finding or knowing the (right) answers? Finally, one of my professors explained to me that a poem (which often translates to “life”) is meant to be experienced, not deciphered.

She said poetry was short-form prose with line breaks; that any visceral reaction to a verse or stanza was often the most truthful. I could work with that. I can let my heart crumble then build it back stronger than it was before.

I turn to poetry when writing feels flat or too predictable. A poet’s ability to create worlds out of connotations & spaces will never cease to astound me. Each line is a tightrope without a safety net.

“Come back! Even as a shadow. Even as a dream.”

[…] “I want something. All my life. Want what. Everywhere I went the thing I wanted had already been scooped out.“

Anne Carson’s lines are always grammatical maelstroms. Poetry has allowed me to embrace the unexpected and taught me to reject expectations. Becoming a writer or a digital nomad and getting sick was never part of the plan. But I’ve never been a fan of convention. The years I’ve spent writing (for myself) have been the most fulfilling, but at the same time, they feel anticipatory as if I’m on the verge of something else.

As Percy B Shelley said, “poetry is a mirror,” the past two and a half years have been a periscope, refracting my assumptions until they emerged distant and entirely different from where they began. Poetry has had a similar effect on my writing, shaping the texture of my sentences and my willingness to take risks and step into the unknown. Growing up means I do not have to understand or write a proof of a transformation to embrace it. All it requires is surrender to anything bigger than me.

I am willing.