Thank you, poetry

This blog post is written in honor of National Poetry Month.

When I was studying journalism, I took poetry classes from David Citino. Looking back, I know now those poetry classes helped me finish my master's degree in a field I was not in love with, even from the start. Ours had been a practical marriage. Poetry had my heart. 

At the end of the quarter, Dr. Citino asked us all to recite a poem of our choosing—not one of ours, but someone else’s. I chose Richard Wilbur’s “The Writer,” and I stood at the front of the classroom and tried my best to recite this story of a young girl writing. 

It was summer by then, and I would get my degree in a few months, after I finished drafting my thesis, sorting out what I wanted to say in one hundred plus pages. It was the summer, too, when I was sorting out different kinds of love: the kind that teaches you, the kind that consumes you, the kind built on friendship, and the kind that will chase you for years if you keep on giving in to the chase. (Which I did.)

I was writing poems then. I wrote poems to sort out my confusion. I wrote poems as celebrations. I wrote poems as coping mechanisms and as promises. I wrote poems as letters to people I once loved, or who had changed me, or who had angered me or who had known something about me that no one else knew. These poems were like secrets I only told myself. They were like little fires burning my fingers, the flames unable to be smothered unless I wrote them down and let them rage onto the page.

I can see now that Richard Wilbur’s poem was about me, was about every writer who is young and sorting it all out. Here is one of my favorite lines:

“Young as she is, the stuff / Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy: / I wish her a lucky passage.”

I still think of Dr. Citino’s class when I think back on who I was that year and at that time. I think of standing in that classroom, the summer light leaning in the windows, of how young I was, how I thought I knew where life was going. That summer seems long in my memory, filled with hot sidewalks and freshly mowed grass, with chicken sandwiches from Grinders’s and ice cream cones from UDF, with borrowed pools and window fans and late-night walks across campus. The last of sun cast  gold down my street and in through the row of second-floor windows I claimed for just that summer as my own. I would move out in September. I would have my degree. I would look at life a little differently.

I think of who I was back then, and I wish for myself a lucky passage.