"I think it is important to be reminded every once in a while that there are
all kinds of beings having all sorts of experiences that are different from mine."
— Zoe, a ninth grader, somewhere in America, April, 2016
"When I put words down on a page, I am listening to their music, their rhythms
and quiet places, their moods. A poem on the page is like sheet music: it's the score
for an experience that happens only once it's been played. The instrument is the
reader's own life and tongue and ears. And just as with music, the poem is never
exactly the same."
— Jane Hirshfield, in response to Zoe
(These excerpts are part of the "Dear Poet" collection at Poets.org.)
I didn't have anything planned for Poetry Friday today. April is National Poetry Month and I always have such good intentions. As much as I love poetry, you'd think I'd carve out the time to do something unique and noteworthy for NPM but I always end up being so busy in April. I'm usually teaching for Brave Writer, I'm currently writing another book, and then there's all the other minutiae of life that seems to expand to fill time, no matter how much I try to simplify. I'm resigned to being an NPM failure of sorts.
This morning, I had the familiar, Oh-my-gosh-it's-already-Poetry-Friday-again feeling. Maybe I'll do something for Poetry Friday related to my birthday, (which is this weekend), I thought. That would be fun and different. Or maybe I'll write something about being too busy to tackle National Poetry Month in precisely the way it deserves to be tackled.
At Poets.org, I typed "busyness" into the search bar. That circuitously led me to the beauty of the "Dear Poet" series, specifically to a set of letters written in April of 2016 to Jane Hirshfield. Even more specifically and serendipitously, I landed on a letter from a girl named Zoe, written on my birthday five years ago, to Hirshfield, who sent Zoe a lovely reply, which I hope and have a feeling will be treasured forever by a certain former ninth-grader.
Zoe is probably in college now, and I hope she is still writing to poets. I'm still busy, still teaching and writing, but somehow Zoe, Jane Hirshfield, and I met at an intersection today. Poetry has a magical way of bringing people together and sparking unexpected conversations. Today, Zoe and Jane have me pondering "all kinds of beings having all sorts of experiences that are different from mine," and "the score for an experience that happens only once it's been played." They've got me thinking about the nature of busyness, and the beauty of solitude, of a thing that "slips into the heart/without hurry, as if it had never been."
To read the poem that prompted Zoe to write to Jane Hirshfield, go here,
Go here for all the 2016 "Dear Poet" letters, and see one from an eleventh-grade girl who begins, "I feel that you are the kind of person who would understand what it's like to be overwhelmed by the very act of being."
The roundup this week is at Reading to the Core.
(Photo courtesy of Erik Karits at Unsplash.)