Earlier this month, I was contacted for an interview. To further celebrate National Poetry Month, I am publishing it here.
By: Adriana Celeste Garcia
Adriana Celeste Garcia, a Purdue University Northwest student, is a Business Management major. She currently resides in Hammond, Indiana, where she wants to keep close ties after graduation so she can give back to her community. Adriana is the second youngest child of six and loves to spend time with her family whenever she finds the time.
- What first drew you to poetry? Was it a difficult time in your life, were you searching for an outlet, or have you always possessed a deep passion for it?
“Always” may be an exaggeration, but I do remember writing my first poem in first grade, and the booklet that the class put together. (I still have it. My contribution was very Dr. Seuss-like in composition.)
In 4th grade, I was placed in a gifted literature program, and for the next three years, my teacher, Mrs. Zuiker, sent a boy, Tracy Lund, and I around to other teachers’ classrooms to read our poetry to students as well as our poems to the local newspaper for publication. It was then that I began building an identity as a poet, which heightened my self-esteem.
While in grade school, I immensely enjoyed the lyricality of language and word play. During difficult family and relationship times in high school, though, I began turning to the creative form out of need. It was, in fact, my “go to” genre whenever I felt depressed, confused, or hurt because in writing poetry, a writer may, as renowned poet Gwendolyn Brooks states, “distill life to its essence.” It also seems to have the most intimate link to emotions for many writers, myself included – I’ve even been known to say that I don’t like to grade poetry because it sometimes feels as though I am assessing writers’ souls.
- How has poetry changed your life if at all? Do you seek after poetry as a pastime, is it a stress reliever, or something else?
Poetry has changed my life tremendously. On the most personal level, writing poetry has allowed me to process and examine my own thoughts and feelings, which has proven cathartic. It has also allowed me to develop and give voice on a range of subjects from narrative to political, which has been empowering. It has also given me a conduit to influence how readers and listeners perceive the world around them.
Reading and listening to poetry has, for one thing, made me feel less alone. Even though poems often discuss specific personal experiences, within them are universal themes, from yearning to connect, to the pain, confusion, anger, and helplessness of disconnection. In January 2017, I took my daughter, Jianna, to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Women’s March, and I could think of no better way to end the day than to attend a Split This Rock poetry reading. It was so good to listen to protest poetry – poetry that serves as an agent of social change. It was comforting and gave me hope, knowing that in a world seemingly gone mad, that others shared my concerns, and to be reminded of the vast power of words.
- Do you feel as though you are happier when you read and or write poetry? Does it allows you to channel or address your feelings more efficiently?
I’m not sure if “happier” is the exact descriptor that I would use. Reading poetry leads to considerable reflection, which, in turn, influences my own way of viewing the world and my writing. In addition, it motivates me to write. Writing is like breathing for most writers; I can’t not do it. If I go too long without writing, I feel like I’m enclosed in a confining space and am suffocating. I feel flat, numb, overwhelmed. Writing poetry serves as a relief valve, but more than that, it helps me to sift thoughts and emotion that waft in my periphery into refined articulation. So, yes, in short, writing poetry is an efficient way for me to process.
- Have you learned anything about yourself through poetry that might have otherwise been untapped? For example, do you feel it allows you to be more creative?
Renowned poet Haki Madhubuti was an angry young black man in the 1960’s when he met Gwendolyn Brooks. She taught him to use words to convey his anger in a meaningful way. While I cannot imagine being a person of color during the Civil Rights Movement or possibly compare my life to Madhubuti’s, I will say that if I had not discovered poetry as a means to constructively think, feel, release, and give voice, I would likely be an angrier person and a less discovered self. Poetry helped me to ponder my personal history and belief system and to be able to move beyond myself.
- Where is a good place for someone to start incorporating poetry into their lives? How can we develop an appreciation for poetry like yourself? What do you think can be gained from it?
Poetry can be incorporated into a life any time from birth forward, beginning with the lyricality of language taught through nursery rhymes, Dr. Seuss books, and children’s poets, such as Shel Silverstein. Hip Hop Speaks to Children is also an excellent resource. Today, anyone with Internet access can watch both traditional and spoken word poets of all ages read their work. A high school senior, slam poet Moises Pulido, recently shared that Button Poetry (which can be located on youtube) turned him on to the art form. Looking up poets on such sites as Split This Rock Poetry Festival, the American Academy of Poets, and the Poetry Foundation may be helpful in determining whose work a reader may want to obtain from a library or bookstore to read. Checking out Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominees and poet laureates of all levels may be useful as well. Sites such as Good Reads contain recommendations, too. Attending a local poetry open mic or slam competition or enrolling in a school or community-related poetry workshop are excellent ways to become even more actively involved. Joining a writing group will help an emerging poet to progress with craft and give the artist a sense of community and access to learning about additional poetry-related opportunities.
There are myths about poetry that serve as “turn offs”; it’s time to move past them. First, poetry isn’t all written in King’s English by white men who have been dead for 100+ years. Secondly, it is not all about nature. Third, the majority of contemporary poetry is not inaccessible or “highfalutin.” No decoder ring is necessary to read it; no degree is necessary to write or perform it. To develop an appreciation for poetry, all that someone has to do is plunge in and explore and be receptive to the experience.
Studies have shown many mental and emotional advantages of reading and writing poetry, ranging from fostered critical and creative thinking, and verbal and written articulation skills, to empowerment, self-awareness, empathy, release, and healing. The benefits of poetry are immeasurable for the human spirit.