Ah, April ... the month of daffodils and chirping birds, and “literary works, in which special intensity is given to the expression of feelings and ideas.”
Rarely do I ask someone if they’ve run across a good poem lately. I’ll clamor for a sure movie tip, or a must read book, but a poem? Not in my recent recollection. Poetry can be either so intensely personal or profoundly abstract that absorbing its deeper meaning often eludes me.
Or, maybe it’s just a mild case of jealousy, wishing I had the ability to dance with words, and coax out their meaning like our current U.S. poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey.
In either case, now is the perfect time to mend my errant ways because April is National Poetry Month.
What I really needed was a little help from some friends to ponder all things poetic. Fortunately, a few local eighth-graders came to the rescue. These students recently concluded a poetry unit in which they were asked to pen a poem about change. A good theme in my view, as adolescence seems synonymous with change.
Change seeps from the woodwork, infecting these kids as they transform, nearly overnight, from our babies into young adults. The poetry unit included a series of readings that culminated in a poetry “slam” where students were introduced to listening as well as writing.
The selections below captivated the group, and remind me that the rush to adulthood is punctuated with moments of struggle and introspection that warrant a voice.
One of the slam finalists wrote about an unlikely subject, pit bulls. The poem, I understand, was delivered with great deal of panache, although in this case the words startled me into thought.
“Pit Bulls,” by Misael Molina
Torn to pieces like a box of chocolates eaten by a girl with a broken heart, Forced to fight for amusement.
Every day pleading, wishing and begging for a home, But gets neglected in return.
People try to change their image. Songs, companies and TV shows.
People think of Pit Bulls as devil faced dogs that growl,
Think of them not as dogs, but as demons on Earth.
When you see them rescued from a fight, you feel like crying a river.
Just to please their owner.
Like Martin Luther King Jr., “I have a dream” for a better future.
I too have a dream to get out of this cage, And to be thought of, not by my breed, but by the size of my heart.
Misael advanced through many rounds of the contest, taking center stage in front of all his peers.
One teacher shared that the limelight was not an altogether comfortable place for this student, who began the year reluctant to speak in front any of his classmates. His unabashed participation displayed change on many levels, multifaceted, not unlike his poem.
Another poem captured one student’s desolation, while proclaiming her strength of spirit. The loss of a parent is difficult at any age, but for this young girl losing her mom wrought change she faced with inner grace, and fierce determination.
“She Is Gone,” by Erin Scott Williams
She is gone, Like a cloud on a sunny summer day,
I don’t know what to do, I may as well go cray,
She was my mom, Someone I can’t live without,
But now she is gone, So, I should probably figure that out.
Should I forget?
No it’s good to remember,
Her blue eyes like the skies, And even those silly good-byes,
Her smile brighter than stars so bold, And her swooshing locks of gold,
She is my mom, my guardian angel, And yes, her death was very painful,
But I can’t just put everything on hold, And wait ‘till I get old.
Then, BOOM, its hits me
A whisper from the sky, A little reminder that she did not die!
She is living in my heart, Right by my side,
She is my mom, And that I cannot deny.
I won’t hold back, No I can’t! . . .
And yes maybe she is gone, Even though I will miss her,
I will still keep moving on.
Read a good poem lately? I have.
“When we grapple with our own inner lives and internal contradictions, we live a more meaningful existence.”
– Natasha Trethewey
U.S. Poet Laureate 2012-14.
Cindy Bargell is an attorney and mom who lives near Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.