Encountering Poetry: A Student’s Perspective

By Alexandra Daley, NYU Florence Student

No one I know could imagine me at a poetry reading. They know me as the physics-obsessed, horse girl of Ocala, Florida. My closest experience to a poetry reading was when my teacher played audio from a poet while we read along, and up until this month my impression of one was from the movies. I could only expect a scene where people in a dimly lit coffee shop snapped away for a poet on stage.

This changed with the Tea with Poets event, and even more so at the Poetry Reading with Ishion Hutchinson, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Valzhyna Morin. The Tea with Poets was interesting, I loved being able to eat cookies and listen to expertly written pieces, but the Poetry Reading was eye opening. I viewed poetry as an art to describe oneself and maybe others when I walked into the room, and left with the realization that poetry was much more. It gave people a voice, and with this voice they could change the world. Each poem talked of experiences and people or ideas that needed to be heard. This type of poetry makes a statement, bringing emotion into political issues. The merging of poetry and politics creates discussions that would not exist otherwise. Yusef Komunyakaa said that you should “tap into the words.” This statement alone could define my hour and thirty minutes spent upstairs at Villa La Pietra. Each poet used the placement and the articulation of words to convey meanings otherwise lost in the text. Listening to a poem read by the writer revealed much more than reading it. I could read expressions and inflections, not just the words on a page. My interpretations were changed because I could see the person they came from, instead of the poem. I don’t plan on going into poetry, but this dialogue taught me to appreciate aspects I never considered before. A poem is a complex question, and as Valzhyna Morin said, “A warrior has answers, a poet has questions.” Poetry presents unfathomable ideas and circumstances that would otherwise be overlooked. My favorite quote from the night came from Yusef Komunyakaa, “Posing a question is a confrontation to a system that cannot answer.” Questioning is resistance and poetry is not the only form, but with the right diction, one can defy what is accepted.

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