Looking Ahead for Fall
I'm nearing the end of the second week of a new semester. Meeting and working with other writers is a major part of what keeps me connected to my own work. By now I've met all my new poets, essayists, and artists who'll be my collaborators for this term, and I am EXCITED.
Each of my classes is filled with kind, dedicated, strange, unique, deeply curious writers. Some of them are English majors, and some come from other departments. Some are athletes, some are military service members, some are musicians or visual artists, some are first generation college students; all of them are showing up for themselves and each other. I don't take for granted the privilege it is to see them come together to understand a poem or brainstorm topics for a lyric essay. Each day I show up grateful that this is my life, that I get to use my own love for communication and language and writing to help other writers in their journey.
This week my poetry class and I read Jack Gilbert's poem, "The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart." It's one of those personal touchstones for me. When I first read it--probably about ten years ago now--I had my version of an Emily Dickinson moment. The top of my head didn't come off, but I suddenly knew something more about what I wanted my poems to be. I felt like something awakened in me that had always been there, but had existed in some kind of dormancy until that moment.
The poem opens this way:
"How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite."
And then there's the ending that gets me every time:
"What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds."
The poem asks all kinds of questions about the limits and possibilities of language, what it's for, and what it can be. It's a reminder to me of what to hold onto and what to work toward. Sharing it with a new group of poets this week was wonderful. I'm surprised and delighted every time I share it by what people see, by what the poem seems to prompt them to remember.
I can tell this is going to be a good semester. I can't wait to see what we write, to see what our thinking will lead us to, to see what our language might help us discover.