The very first poem that ever really hit me was “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. The darkness and visceral sense of horror and longing for the dead were so intense for me that I obsessed with it long after the first reading. By 11, I had typed the whole thing out just so I could have my own copy at home. By the end of sixth grade, I had written my own book of poetry, bound in indigo construction paper faded from the sun. My teacher made me read a deeply personal piece out loud because my experience was so utterly separate from the charmed suburban lives of my classmates, I guess it was its own learning opportunity. That’s when I knew my voice could matter, provide insight, even enlighten others.
By 16, my favourite was “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot – I almost named one of my children Eliot after the piece. Til human voices wake us and we drown… what an ethereal, menacing sense of yearning… it spoke so deeply to my teenage angst. The fact that it had been written so many decades before didn’t matter at all, because it resonated so purely and completely in my soul, there was nothing that could alter that sense of oneness.
The way we connect with poetry is not typical of the way we connect with other works of writing. There is something uncanny in the way even the most abstracted poems become so intuitive; these words are so much more than mere letters on a page. Dangling in the air after being breathed to life, poetry becomes a spell – some type of magic that ties our hearts to one another – if we are lucky.
That magical connection, the sense of seeing and being seen all at once, is not something that reaches us easily. There are so few of these moments in life, yet somehow, poetry seems, for me at least, the one thing that consistently pulls this maneuver off without so much as a hiccup. The connection is what draws us to it as poets as well, knowing full well the power it wields while serving grace, beauty, raw truth and candor. Poetry is not an escape. It is a journey into the depths of a poet’s heart and mind. That journey leaves us changed in ways we can’t always anticipate.
Poetry is the freedom to express that which is deep and dark without concern for the way it makes someone else feel because as long as they feel something, it’s working. It’s the space to process trauma and forgive yourself without ever needing to hear any words from others. Poetry moves. It’s transformative, and that transformation can be a catalyst for what we choose to make of ourselves, our stories, and our passions. Poetry is a place we can learn about others and ourselves. Poetry bridges the divides of time and space. It is the light in this inky blackness the world offers up so often, and the kinship we seek in our loneliest times.
Justene Dion-Glowa is a bi, Métis poet from Canada.
• EiC of 3 Moon Magazine
• Reviews of small press poetry
• my depression, my husband and me [Ayaskala]
• Purchase ‘From The Ashes’ [Animal Heart Press]
• Traces [Burning House Press]
• Fevers of the Mind Poetry Digest Issue 2: In Memoriam [Amazon]
• New piece out from Petrichor April 2020