Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Power of Poetry

Susan is fairly new to the poetry class.  She's an excellent poet, capable of considerable variety  of subject and style.  She is friendly but she is not one of the ones who chat about personal matters.  Yesterday, i.e., just a day after Veteran's Day, she read a long poem that accounted for a boy's life starting at age one and moving on to twenty-one, told in rhyming quatrains in colloquial language that was smooth, flowing and full of intimate detail.  We knew the title at the outset "Forever Twenty-One"and most (later some admitted to not thinking ahead to the end) knew what that phrase meant. 

Susan read the poem aloud as we do in that class.  She reads well, no one reads dramatically in the style of poetry slams -- we are all too old for slamming anyway -- As she neared the end and the boy joined the Army, her voice broke. "I'm having trouble," she said.  Another woman quickly said, "I'll read the rest for you." She did. Of course the young man died in the Army.  It was a deeply affecting poem.  I think everyone was moved, especially by the wealth of intimate details about the child as he grew and then the sense of loss. 

The beginning of the discussion was awkward but finally someone said, "Is it your son?"

"No," she said.  "I was listening to all the discussion about veterans yesterday and I was moved to write this.  I don't have a son."  But she had genuinely been moved while reading it.  Her feelings about the loss of a young man's life were sincere.  "They're all our sons," she said.  She did not write a poem that made that didactic statement; she wrote a poem that made all of us feel the empathy she felt that moved her to write so well.