It’s been a long road. We’ve only been close for five years now, but I’ve known you for what feels like my whole life, and it might as well be. There are a lot of things to say to you, but most of all, I’m grateful.
We probably met in some dusty tome in grade school. I read “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, and I think I knew I loved you then. I didn’t love you the way they taught me to love you; I didn’t love learning you, memorizing you, treating you like a code. But I remember the way you made me feel, I remember the way writing haikus in third grade made me thrill. But I put you away when I fell prey to that perennial siren, the novel.
It would be a long time before I felt that thrill for you again. But I read a lot. I heard the poetry in every piece of fiction I read, in the ways the words trickled over each other until they sang. I started college and I wanted to write novels, write like Fitzgerald or Mary Shelley, or even John Green. All were great options, but I soon discovered that I didn’t quite have the attention span for it, or the talent to write it the way I wanted it.
And anyway, my professor, Richard Meier, placed Lorine Niedecker into my hands and I realized that I had held poetry in my hands the whole time. The poem he placed in my hands had been one that I drove past every day on my way to grade school and high school.
The rest of the poem is a sprawling story of origin, of what it is to be from the place that we were from, to be from a place when language coexists with location. Every day I wrote, I loved you more, poetry. Every poem I read taught me more about what I was looking for, about what I was wanting to learn, to write, to love, to live. All those cheesy cliches to line up in a row and push me here.
When I was so very sick my senior year of undergrad, it was you, poetry, who helped me understand it. Who helped me to talk about it and to heal, an ongoing process which developed into the thesis that I turned in a short time ago.
And here, at Columbia, I got to know you more than I thought was possible. I got to meet and to love people who loved you the way I did, and differently too. Through you, I have been able to understand and to feel people in a way that would have not been possible without you. I was taught to think about you complexly. To challenge the ways I think I write, and the ways I think other people should write.
You gave me colleagues, you gave me mentors, you gave me friends, you gave me words.
So here’s the grateful: Thank you for poems. Thank you for poets. Thank you for readers. Thank you for listeners. Thank you for empathy. Thank you for listening. Thank you for hearing. Thank you for hands that write, for hands that hold poems. Thank for friends. Thank you for teachers, professors, mentors.
Dear poetry, I’ll talk to you soon.