What better lines to begin the semester with than those? After all, what teenager has not felt as Emily Dickinson must have writing those words?
“Don’t worry about understanding every word of the poem,” I told my students, ages 16-21, all young women; all either pregnant or parenting. Instead, I asked them, “What emotion is the poet describing?”
Loneliness was not hard to identify.
“Have you ever felt that way?”
A sea of nodding heads. Even heads that were resting on arms that were resting on desks seemed to nod slightly.
Poetry is so often written out of that utter loneliness. And the fact that everyone else has felt that loneliness, too, ought to tell us something. Can we really be such lonely souls if we are feeling the same thing as all of the other lonely souls who share our planet?
In any case, poetry is our opportunity to send a letter to the world. No postage necessary. So, for our writing assignment that day we started each line of our poems with the words “I want to tell the world…”
Some lines that linger with me:
I want to tell the world how disappointed I feel.
I want to tell the world how tired I am. So tired I could go to sleep right here.
I want to tell the world that my son got his first tooth!
I want to tell the world something happy.
I want to tell the world something crazy.
I want to tell the world I went rowing today — on the only river there is.
And perhaps my favorite line, written in the margin of one student’s paper:
“This is my first poem!”
And so the correspondence begins.
photo by Aja Riggs Copyright 2007