On poetry, or, a story of how I fell in love with myself again

I’ve been having a hell of a few months. I won’t spend too much of this page talking about it. Suffice to say: Shit’s rough. But I am still learning, and living, and loving, and, more often than not, coping.

That’s what life’s about, after all.

Instead of collapsing in on myself, which is all I want to do and none of what I want to do, I bought some books of poetry. I consumed them, and kept picking up poems and songs. It seems that I don’t have the attention span for full-length novels at the moment, but small snippets of language that can flit in and out of understanding, gut-punching lines that draw me out of the malaise — sign me the hell up.

First, I bought Blythe Baird’s IF MY BODY COULD SPEAK, and I cried at work reading the epigraph.

You remember too much, my mother said to me recently.

Why hold on to all that? And I said, Where can I put it down?

–Anne Carson

Epigraph from Blythe Baird, If My Body Could Speak.

It feels like I need to put some things down, recently. There is a certain kind of weight that has settled on my shoulders, and it’s getting a little difficult to ignore. So this inscription hit me pretty hard, and it’s still hitting me pretty hard, even now. The poems in the book are vulnerable, and raw, and angry. Exactly how I was feeling at the time.

Then I bought Desiree Dallagiacomo’s SINK, and identified with the raw language she uses to describe her relationship with her family, and with the way she describes some of the traumas that have happened to and around her.

After that, I was hooked.

And I kept finding more poems. I bought books of poetry when I traveled for work, and found poems like Catharine Wagner’s work in Poetry Magazine. Poems like Joy Harjo’s “For Keeps,” which was like a kick in the stomach.

Poems like Dean Young’s “Small Craft Talk Warning,” which fucked me right the hell up and continues to fuck me up every time I read it. I printed and hung it in my cube so I can be reminded that language, words, thought — they’re all mutable. They can create the kind of emotion that sits with you, waiting to either curdle inside your stomach or fill your bones with light.

It’s not a museum, it’s a hive.

The blood may be fake

but the bleeding’s not.

From “Small Craft Talk Warning,” Dean Young

And these works kept filling me with more words, and more vibrancy, and more life.

And I kept thinking, The universe is trying to tell me something.

I’ve written three poems in the last several months, more than I have since college. Since learning to appreciate language again, I feel . . . not calmer. But fuller. Like there’s more potential to be something good again, something huge like the universe. I don’t hate my body anymore. I don’t hate the words I write. I talk less about the trauma that seems to be following me.

I’m falling in love with myself again. And since that’s what I set out to do this year, I think that’s pretty rad.

Might post one or more of those poems this week, stay tuned.

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