What is it about poetry that just makes time stand still? It gets me every time! National Poetry Month continues, and I find myself paying more attention to poems and poets – new and old. I came across this beautiful poem by Margaret Atwood just now (is there anything this woman can’t do?!), and I love it. Not sure I totally get it, but love it nonetheless. ;-)
Somehow even though she writes about unfurling, holding back, taking away, it makes me feel the opposite – letting go, exhaling, being at peace.
“the birds take back their language, the cliffs fissure and collapse, the air moves back from you like a wave and you can’t breathe.”
I like the imagery of the pivotal moment, after years of a long voyage, standing in the centre of your room, house, or whatever anchor you have, and reflecting on how you got there, and owning your journey and the moment.
I love how she draws a parallel between the moment and layers it with the idea of trees unloosing their soft arms around you…
Layers and layers and layers of words, that create a poem. Actually Margaret Atwood says exactly this, in a quote of hers that I love:
Words definitely have power, and she knows how to spin them, craft them, rearrange them, to give them power that last a lifetime.
Sometimes at the end of my tutoring sessions, I will work with my students to write a poem about a random topic, or any topic that interests them, or about the current season or holiday. The other day, Miraya and I came up with the following poem about spring. She was delighted today when I asked if I could share our poem on my blog! Here it is:
A Plummy Spring
I thought spring would come,
So I could eat some plums.
But everywhere I look,
I see snow on the ground —
I tried to listen for birds chirping,
but couldn’t hear a sound.
I looked out of my window, and thought:
“Surely, my plums will rot!”
Just then, a little robin flew past my view —
A sign I’m sure,
Perhaps spring is on its way for you too!
It was dusk,
And I decided to wander off the beaten path, the one
that was taking me safely back home,
without much adventure.
I came across tiny footprints imprinted in the soft snow,
and followed the clues to a large open field,
guided by trees reaching into the sky, striving to be
none other than themselves.
As this pretty sight beheld me,
I felt my heart glow,
like it does to the characters on Jane the Virgin
(you know when they show that golden light around their hearts).
“I can’t believe it’s March,” I thought to myself,
as the vast Canadian winter
stretched out before me.
A woman called out to her dog “Riley, it’s time to go!”
The dog didn’t listen —
But instead stopped to scamper through the cattails
and eye me suspiciously.
I took a video for my Instagram friends
And a few pics as well.
Which filter shall I use?
Which one will bring the experience most to life,
And which one will get the most likes? (come on we all know we
think it before we post it!).
Of course I had to include a little bit of me in the clip,
placed in the middle of the scene as if in a movie.
The sky was shades of purple and blue and pink,
And I could hear an owl hooting in the background.
It was hard to leave, as it always is —
When surrounded by such beauty, and while standing in the light.
But I turned my back, knowing it still stood there,
And would still be there again tomorrow.
There’s a poet that always inspires me; she has grace and eloquence, rawness and authenticity. Her name is Rupi Kaur. I first encountered Rupi through a controversial post a few years back. She had posted a picture of herself lying on her bed, and a spot of blood was visible on her backside as well as on her bed sheets. She had posted the picture on Instagram, with a description of her reasoning, saying that “my womb is home to the divine”. Instagram deleted the picture, saying that it violated their policies, but then after a huge backlash, it reversed its decision and permitted it.
I started reading Rupi’s poetry on Facebook, and fell madly in love. She truly has a gift with words – so true and straight from the heart and clearly from personal experience, from deeply held feelings that she courageously shares with the world. Rupi has suffered from sexual abuse, a lot of heartbreak, yet has also experienced a lot of joy and inner awakening, which shines through in her writing.
Now that she is super famous, I always forget that she is Canadian! Born in Punjab, her family eventually moved to Brampton, and she now lives in Toronto. And she even attended the same university as I did – the University of Waterloo! She did an arts major there, and it was actually her fourth year project that inspired the Instagram post.
The only person I know that loves her as much as I do is my friend Melinda. Over the years we have exchanged texts with her words, with cheesy responses like “YESSSS” and “so soulful”. When I discovered that Rupi would be reading her poetry at the Reference Library in T.O., I instantly messaged Melinda and asked if she was free. She couldn’t make it, but I took both of our copies of Milk and Honey, and went to get them signed.
When I first arrived, it was to a packed house. The most packed house I’d ever seen at the Reference Library. She was reading one of my favourite poems of hers.
Ahhhhh I could listen to those words over and over. Here they are in written form:
I do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
I want to be full on my own
I want to feel so complete
I could light a whole city
I want to have you
’cause the two of
it on fire
— Rupi Kaur
As the reading was coming to an end, I saw a line forming and realized that it was for her book signing. I jumped into line, and I’m glad I did because it eventually grew and grew and winded around the entire first floor of the library. People waited for hours!
When I got to the front, Rupi greeted me with a beautiful smile and asked how I was doing and then signed my book with a personalized message. She was very warm, and I’m not sure how she managed to stay so calm and happy while signing literally hundreds of books. There are certain people that bring their full presence to whoever they come in contact with. It’s truly a gift.
Here are a few of my other favourite poems of hers:
Some poets have been angered by Rupi’s success, possibly out of jealousy, but also because they think that the skill required for her type of work is not as involved, or as technical as ‘real poetry’ (see Rebecca Watts’ article on PN Review). But that’s the thing about poetry — the best stuff comes from the heart yet is somehow also technically flawless – it has that magical quality that you can’t put your finger on. Although it can definitely be emulated. There are many poets now that use the same style, and they become instant hits on Instagram and get thousands of likes.
As for me, I’m not totally sure about my style yet – sometimes I use rhyme, sometimes prose, and sometimes I try and emulate a poet that inspires me, while bringing my own style to to the mix. Maybe one day I will also read to a packed house! ;-)
“I’ve only ever fallen in love with geminis” he once told me.
I flashed my eyes at him. He had my attention.
Ummmm what is that supposed to mean, I wondered. What was he
trying to tell me? Did that mean we were destined to be
together, that I was the next gemini on the list.
Did that mean that the stars had already decided long
ago, or was it all just a tease,
Meant to lead me astray.
He shook his head in disbelief as he looked at me.
He almost couldn’t believe it himself.
You know, and you’re all so similar.
Love to travel, Athletic (Reeeeally? Me?),
You want to change the world,
Well maybe he didn’t say that last one,
I just wished it.
Did that make me just like the others?
Just another gemini?
or were all the others
just a dry run