‘Poetry is its own not following’
Photograph by Aleksandr Zykov
Before poetry got me a job, it intellectually and spiritually changed my world. Poetry introduced me to the person I have a child with and to my best friends. As much as I love O’Hara’s poem, I know that imagining change doesn’t make change and that one person’s changed world is not enough. Yet poetry actually made my world, in many of its daily textures. Imagination, the primary engine of the poem, is a power of mind, and if we don’t teach children (and ourselves) that it’s valuable, and guide them in exercising those muscles, we will never change our world.
Poetry is its own not following. As it breaks and plays on the militarized forms of grammar and rhythm, it shows us other paths of existence. It shows us how not to go along. Which, for me right now, sometimes means deep listening—listening in on the progenitor Lesbian and touching two thousand years of poetic resistance and beauty with my mind—and sometimes not listening at all—turning down the volume (ALL THE WAY DOWN) on the State of the Union to listen elsewhere, in the deep well of poetry. I am taking to the streets, I am calling my senators, I am trying to figure out how to live with world-grief. And I am looking to poems to remind me 1) sweet delight 2) to imagine 3) to listen 4) to change the world.