Poetry as Community

As the semester has progressed, I’ve re-evaluated my definition of what a poem is again and again.  I wish I could say I knew definitively what a poem is, but I can’t. However, I’ve come up with one facet of what makes a poem in all that time, and I think that poems create a group.  Maybe it’s made up of the people who inspired that particular poem, the people in the poet’s life who have pushed them forward creatively.  Maybe that group is made up of their readers, people who found that poem inspiring or thought it expressed something they connect with.  As a poet, I’ve spent a lot of time making my poems accessible for readers.  I want my poetry to be read by more than one demographic and I want it to speak to a multiplicity of experience, but I know that I’m limited to my own set of experiences and the years I’ve spent on this earth so far.  I want to inspire some sort of positive feeling which calls people to action, to stand together, etc. but I know that my poetry can only speak for a white woman living in the United States.  It’s that feeling of limitation that frustrates me and pushes me to reinvent my use of language every time I pick up a pen.

I’ve also realized that shared experiences are what create understanding in poetry, and that while we all have had separate lives, we can connect with one another through shared feelings.  I think this is the silver lining I’ve been searching for.  Whenever I hear knocks on the table during a workshop to express love for a particular line or phrase, I know I’ve done my job.  I know that because my poems are products of my worldview, most lines won’t resonate with large groups of people, but if I can create one line per poem that does that, I’m satisfied.

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