Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Remember the Lines

As an undergrad I changed my major to English and very quickly realized that I wasn't going to be able to pick and choose what I wanted that major to teach me. I loved fiction, creative non-fiction, and essays on literature. What I didn't get was poetry. I had childhood favorites, sure, and teenage rhymes, but the discussion and dissection of a poem in a classroom? The process completely intimidated me. I was overwhelmed by my peers search for meaning, for my own need to discover something new and unique in what felt so old over played. It wasn't until a class with a small, quiet professor who took her time on each line of the poem, not as if she could show us its meaning if we looked closely with her, but as if she was as interested as we were, as new to the words as we were, as open to whatever the poem had to tell us, that I began to get it. Instead of asking us what the poem meant or talking about its impact as a whole, she focused on the lines, telling us that she "only remembered the lines."

I felt empowered by the knowledge that I didn't have to get it all right at that moment, didn't need to know everything about the piece or retain any greater wholeness - I could know and love one line. It was a reintroduction to poetry that changed my method in my major, yes, but more than that, with those few words that professor gave me the power and freedom to find my own way in, and more importantly, my own way out, carrying with me what I choose, not what I assume I should retain. It's a nomadic connection between a reader and a line.

Poetry is now such a huge part of my life, part of my every day really, that I forget my initial fears and confusion, but I'm grateful that struggled my way to the lines - they're better that way.

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