Books are door-shaped
helping me feel
Emily Dickinson’s test of poetry:
If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know. Is there any other way.
Dickinson gave this definition in 1870 to Thomas Wentworth Higginson. I found it in Edward Hirsch’s How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, which I am thoroughly enjoying. You can read the first chapter, including more on the quote, online thanks to the Poetry Foundation.
honey people murder mercy U.S.A.
the milkland turn to monsters teach
to kill to violate pull down destroy
the weakly freedom growing fruit
from being born
And what about our teachers? Our teachers
expected us to sit and listen. In Theology, there was
a demon inside each of us; in History,
the demons among us. So many demons
in this world. Who among us could have spoken up
against the gods, the gods who continued living
The only adults I know who write—and in a way, read—poetry are poets. It kind of narrows down to the people where that is actually their style of writing and their medium. When you’re a teenager, it’s easier to dabble more. … Also, in a way, you’re protected. When I think about the poetry I wrote in high school, I felt protected because I felt like I was taking on a tone and an understood amount of drama as opposed to when I was just trying to write a personal essay, and it was straightforward. To use certain writing devices that I had used in poetry seemed melodramatic.