Whenever I read a poem that moves me, I know I’m not alone in the world
I often used NPR’s This I Believe program and materials when I taught middle school. The essays, full of powerful ideas, helped students understand how to speak with their own voices and develop experiences with specific examples.
Here, poet Gregory Orr from The University of Virginia talks about why he writes and reads poetry.
like puffy paint, snow leaves float on tall lattes
perfect rosettes atop dark caramel
it’s what they do, draw freely in large, brown mugs
I wait for my almond-milk chai, watching them
pour art in the corner coffee shop,
wishing my cup, too, came with a gift
“I don’t know that people ought to bother. I think that poetry is one of those choices you make in life that’s … it’s not really susceptible to reasoning or arguments.”
But his reason is MY reason: “Orr says he reads poetry because it helps him negotiate the world around him and understand his own feelings about that world.”
A friend recently shared the work of Virginia Hamilton Adair, who published her first of poetry when she was 83. Not that she didn’t publish poems in magazine and literary journals. She did. But according the Afterword by Robert Mezey, “she wished to write exactly what she pleased and how she pleased, and believed she could more easily enjoy that freedom outside the official literary world.” He writes more about her watching others struggle with desire for fame and recognition–and “how painful and corrosive both hunger and fame could be.”
She wanted none of it.
She lived a life of writing for the joy of writing, though she certainly had great loss and grief, for which poetry became balm and comfort.
There you are. Thanks, Seth, for sharing Virginia with me.