I remember when I first experienced goosebumps raise on my arms and send a shiver through my body, simply because the words leaving the speaker’s lips left such an imprint on me. I didn’t think that a simple sentence could bring tears to my eyes, could cause me to react in any physical way. I didn’t even know the author. Yet, it still amazes me anytime I react to such a poem. The emotions that the author pours into every word and every syllable is astounding. Each pause and breath tell a story on their own. I knew that I had to try.
I wanted to make people feel the way like I did when I first heard them, but because it was my words that made them react. Denice Frohman’s poem, “Dear straight people”, wasn’t the first poem I had heard, but it really resonated with me. She starts off playfully, and as she continues her words become more intense, but when she softens her words again, she says, “Dear queer young girl, I see you. You don’t want them to see you so you change the pronouns in your love poems to ‘him’ instead of ‘her’. I used to do that. Dear straight people, you make young poets make bad edits.
This line had hit me hard, because her audience wasn’t teenagers, her audience was adults; yet, she knew that despite her words not reaching that young girl she directed, it would reach the young girls we once were, the girl who used to change the words in her poem, making her lines all the more powerful, because reliving the memories that made our stomachs churn, will strike us harder than we imagined. While there are countless videos of people reading their love poems, none have really ever influenced me or impressed me.
I personally feel like the theme of love appears way to often in he media already, so when I chose to find a new poem, I want it to be one that addresses something that society usually turns a blind eye towards. For example, Venessa Marco’s poem entitled “Patriarchy” points out that which many people chose to ignore: Patriarchy is so evident, it seeps through every flaw you’ve got until everyone is calling you out your name. You, no longer Stacy. You, whore from downtown. Head game so good, got a man walking in the right direction. See how quickly you become a mouth again? A cavity? A temple and brothel, both cathedral and Jezebel?
Cuddle and disparage? You, not just dressed up, high heels stopping pavement. You’re asking for it, as if your body were an eager child who can’t use its words. After hearing all these poets, I decided that I needed to give it a try. My first attempt left me incredibly disappointed. The words weren’t quite right and the breaks in my sentences were awkward, but I was determined. All the poetry lessons from school did nothing to help me. No rhyme scheme was needed; I could use as many syllables as I decided, and this freedom I had over my own words was completely new.
However I decided to shape the poem was entirely up to me. I felt more comfortable giving myself at outline at first, so I used a rhyme scheme and modeled it after another poem. The second attempt was better, but still left a bad taste in my mouth. Mother’s day was coming up and while my brothers and I usually just cleaned the house really well and took my mom out to dinner, I wanted to do something more personal. Considering how I was already working on becoming more skilled in writing poetry, I decided to write a poem for my mother.
I spent about two days writing and rewriting this poem and deciding how to read it. The morning of Mother’s day, I went into her room and shakily held the papers. I knew my mom would appreciate the sentiment whether or not the poem was good, but I was still nervous regardless. I took a deep breath and started reading. As the first lines spilled from my lips, my voice started to shake and my eyes started to water, because despite the fact that I had read this aloud countless times to myself, I had never read it to anyone else and the full weight of my own words weighed heavy on my chest.
As I glanced at my mother for the first time since had started reading, I saw her head bowed and her eyes closed. When the last line left my mouth I refolded the papers and asked if she liked it and when she looked up she was crying but her mouth held a small, sad smile. My oldest brother, Cory, came into the room and my mother told me to read it to him. I didn’t tear up this time, but my words had the same effect on him. My big brother, who never cried over anything, rubbed his eyes with his knuckles and smiled at me with the same look of sadness in his eyes.