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Dead Poets Society: College edition

 Written by    August 27, 2019

I like outcasts. That’s one of the main reasons I took a poetry seminar last semester. I was ready to see all those goth, Panic! At The Disco and Mitski-loving writers. I love people who are overly emotional, struggling to face their demons, and held back by society’s wishes. Just reveal to me more of your troubles, you weirdos!

The second reason I took a poetry class is less interesting. Poetry has always held a peculiar place in my life. I consider myself a fiction and essay writer, but poetry always seemed a little bit further from reach. It was ambiguous and exclusive, associated with a sort of infuriating pretension. Yes T.S. Eliot, you can dare eat a peach if you want, but why are you so troubled by it?!

At the same time, poets like Maya Angelou, Hanif Abdurraqib, and Marina Keegan pulled me to the life-like pulse of poetry. Poets who write things like this:

“I promise / I will not beg for you to stay this time / I will leave you to your wild galloping / I am sorry / to hold you again / for so long / I am in the mood / to be forgotten.” (From “For the Dogs Who Barked at Me on the Sidewalks in Connecticut” by Hanif Abdurraqib)

Or this:

Here
this clean mirror
traps me unwilling
in a gone time
when I was love
and you were booted and brave
and trembling for me.

(“A Zorro Man” by Maya Angelou, from a poetry collection that’s not published online. (Did someone say I was underground and hipster?))

It was this and more that led me to poetry in college. The seminar I took was the quintessential college poetry class — classroom tucked away in a basement room, room teeming with nervous declarations of emotion. It hinged both on breaking away from the norm and validation from it. The class was broken into eight segments: one of reading other people’s poems and another writing and working on our own poems, a cycle we ran through four times.

I’ve always felt that writers tend to experience and express emotions more vividly and in more dimensions than the rest of the world. It’s something about how writers condense people, situations, and feelings into pages, either expanding on the nature of each or summarizing their essence in a few sentences. With, of course, careful deliberation of each and every word. We trace back and meditating on each one, words and ideas full of puckish suggestions and dangerous sentiments.

I could see this in my poetry seminar. I was surrounded, for once, by people who dived into the world in a similar way as I did. People who noticed small, grand gestures and big, minuscule mishaps, and documented then in a way that I could understand. My poetry teacher was astounding: a 20s something woman determined to show us that there was more to poetry than Keats, which led to her choosing only women and writers of color for our syllabus. Workshopping, or the act of bringing in your poem for the class to critique and judge in the hopes they will be lenient, was not as heartbreaking as I thought it would be. People were delicate with others’ poems, complimenting and gushing and only then offering constructive suggestions, often being kinder than they would be to their own poems. On our final day of the seminar, we talked about how poetry offers a break from life, a kind of deep-breathing that makes you stop for a few moments.

I don’t think that written poetry is a dying art: poetry is natural, torrid, meticulous, exciting and humane, and those who regularly read poetry find it unforgettable. My seminar was enough to rekindle my love for poetry, especially poetry that goes against the grain of conventional literature. Plus, I really felt like I was in Dead Poets Society! I think that, at least, is something everyone should feel once.

Academics, Advice, Author, Classes, Diversity, Personal


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