During my time as an undergraduate, I have had several opportunities to explore creative writing and its many forms. Poetry is a medium I have always admired, and this feeling has only grown with time. I decided to implement a new habit this year to keep track of the poems I have been enjoying as I move through my twenties. The best way I can frame this hobby is as creating a commonplace book of sorts, and most importantly an experience to revisit in the future. I organized this challenge by selecting a maximum of five poems per month that I felt spoke to me or I found myself revisiting. I then take note of lines that I enjoyed, conversations I had with the poem, and how I found it applicable to my life’s events. Here are the four poems that I selected for January 2023:
- “A Citizen” by Katie Peterson
Katie Peterson is one of my favorite poets, so it is no surprise that I was constantly rereading one of her poems throughout January. Her imagery and imperative voice are always striking to me as a reader, especially because she is able to convey so much meaning through the mundane. In this poem, the most prevalent piece of imagery to me was the exploration of coins and the many different faces they can have. The contemplative nature of the lines are also comforting to me; it feels as if she is bringing me along with her as she questions things, while also maintaining her wisdom and imparting statements of certainty. This pattern of knowing, but never knowing enough, really resonates with how I feel as a student.
- “Question” by May Swenson
I admire this tone because of the primary focus on sounds. I found that the pacing of the poem served more than any of the diction (not to say that the word choice is not also incredible because it is). There is a moderately prevalent pattern in all of the patterns where each line has four syllables, which creates a smooth rhythm when read aloud. Animals in poems are something that immediately draws me in as well, and I think it is very cool that Swenson blurs the lines between the speakers, as if they exist as a human, a dog, and a horse. The voice of the poem seems so wise and natural, and it is such a joy to read this poem.
- “Shapechangers in Winter” by Margaret Attwood
I tried to read this poem once a day throughout the month, which was difficult at times considering that this is a lengthier poem, but I think it provides a beautiful message about routine and memories with another person. Intimacy is established with the speaker and the person this poem is directed towards almost immediately, and even as an outsider, I could feel the nostalgia, yearning, and acceptance. My favorite line is “I used to say I’d know you anywhere, but it’s getting harder” because it is so perfectly heart-wrenching.
- “Work and Play” by Ted Hughes
I decided to get into Ted Hughes this month because I am a big Sylvia Plath fan, and I was curious to read any poems he may have written about her since he was her husband at one point in time. This poem focuses on nature and humanity, but I loved it nonetheless. Anaphora and alliteration work to create a nice rhythm in this poem and imagery is developed through color and texture. This poem reminds me of summertime, which I am really missing now in the Northern California winter.
“Braille” by Diana Anphimiadi
This poem is very special to me because I first read it in a gifted poetry book that I received for my twentieth birthday. My boyfriend gave this book to me and recommended a few of his favorite poems, this being one of them. It reads great on the page, but I especially love listening to this poem read aloud. Repetition, call-and-response, and the calm familiarity between the speaker and the “you” character in the poem make it such a delightful read. The imagery used is also very unexpected and sweet, which I loved as well.
As I continue with this practice, I know I will come to appreciate the preservation of my mind and life during these formative years. In a way, it is a form of a diary, and it will be a precious encapsulation of mementos to look back on later in life and share with my future family. I recommend beginning something similar in a form that best resonates with your and your interests.