How Poetry Changed My Life


Some time ago, when I was one year into my master’s degree in journalism with one year left, I decided to quit—not because the program lacked strength but because what I really wanted was to study poetry. I had already begun celebrating my decision to quit when my father called me up.

“You’re already halfway through,” he said.

It’s not as if I couldn’t do the math, but I couldn’t see the finish line that he could see or the future he could imagine. My father understood that a master’s degree in anything would help my career, and he probably surmised what it would take me years to understand: that a journalism master’s degree in particular would strengthen my writing skills and help me land a wide range of communications positions, which in fact it did. But back then, I just wanted to write poetry.

On my father’s advice, I stayed in the journalism program, but I decided that in order to get through my final journalism year, I needed to take all my electives in the English Department. I tried to get into a poetry writing class with one professor, but she wouldn’t let me in. “Your poems are too sentimental,” she told me. 

It was Dr. David Citino who let me into his poetry writing seminar, Dr. David Citino who taught me how to take sentimentality out, Dr. David Citino who made it possible for me to stay in my journalism program and finish. Poetry kept me from quitting.

This is one of the reasons that when National Poetry Month comes around every year, I can’t help but celebrate. Poetry did not just save me from quitting my journalism degree: poetry has been my constant companion and has guided me through upheavals, emotions, and changes and has helped me cope, understand, and let go.

On that note, I bring you a poem (originally published in Streetlight Magazine) by Whitney Roberts Hill

Sorrow .png

I saw this one on Whitney's Instagram, and I immediately loved the poem, especially this line: “Sorrow kept/too long forgets to leave.”

You can hear this poem read by Robert McCready here on the Magic City Poetry YouTube Channel.

Thank you, Whitney Roberts Hill, for this beauty.

And thanks to all the poets and to all you readers who came along with me during National Poetry Month as I featured works from contemporary poets. (If you missed any of the poets and their poems, you can find them here: Ada Limón’s “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” Ariel Francisco's "For the Man Pushing His Mixtape on the Corner of Biscayne and 167th," Courtney LeBlanc's "Self-Portrait as a Thunderstorm," and Denise Weuve's "The Haircut.") 

Let’s do it again, same time next year.

Whitney Roberts Hill is a graduate student in the Queens University MFA program and is currently working on a novel.

Part of this blog was orginally published in the Johnson City Press.

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