Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Hannah VanderHart : part four

Why is poetry important?

In the recent podcast episode of Between the Covers, David Naimon interviews Jorie Graham, who talks about the possibility of “the awakened reader.” Poetry wakes us up. I think it especially wakes up the writer, and the reader can experience the writer’s wakefulness as an asynchronous contact-waking. I’m grateful now to several years of not writing poetry—when I was having my children and finishing my PhD program—because it allowed me to experience the transition from not reading contemporary poetry and writing poetry to doing both again. I remember I was bewildered by one of the first books I read, Robyn Schiff’s A Woman of Property, but I knew I loved it, even if I couldn’t say why or put my thoughts into coherent order. So I kept reading, and six months later reread the book, and the world and the language seemed to fall into place. There is a literacy of having a reading practice that is undervalued sometimes, I think. Similarly, taking up writing again made the whole world a poem—everything I saw, I suddenly noticed I was noticing. This was right after the 2016 presidential elections in America, and it was a devastating time. I felt like I would explode if I did not write. Poetry saved my life then.

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